The Namesake

By Jhumpa Lahiri

Although a movie has been made on this book still I couldn’t help writing a review on it after reading the book. This book is a story of two generations of bengali in USA, the senior couple have moved from India and their US born kids. To some extent it describes their conflict.

The story begins with Ashok being saved from an accident because of a page from a book by Nickolai Gogol. Ashok later moves to US but marries Ashima from India. They have a son and a daughter. One definitely sees a beautiful representation of emotional displacement through these two characters and from the way they try to preserve their culture by conducting all the ceremonies for their children. The son is nicknamed Gogol but due to a misunderstanding that becomes his official name. Here the author gives a very nice explanation of petnames in bengali by stating it is the name by which a person is loved, adored, remembered and scolded. Gogol grows up with a completely different thought process than his parents. He grows up and in a rebelious moment changes his name to Nikhil. Gogol repents this act when he comes to know the reason why his father respects Gogol so much. After this he understands his parents better but its too late by then. The subsequent events decide whether Gogol finds his happiness in adopting his roots completely or giving them up and how the family sticks togather.

This is a good book with a simple plot and so it can be taken up if one reads while travelling to and from work. Somehow a very sad life of NRI is presented in this book. Many aspects, like the inability of a four year old to answer to his official name, seem fictional. I wouldn’t suggest taking this book during a festive season. This book just makes me feel that authors like Jhumpa Lahiri should write more about the present day life of Indian youngsters which is almost same whether in India or anywhere.


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