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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review - Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Having read her other books, I knew I was in for a very pleasant reading time once I started this book. Like before, I had to read right to the finish and this morning can hardly open my eyes to start the day as a result!

The book (a Pulitzer prize winner) a collection of nine short stories, all with Bengali Indians as their main character and all set either in Calcutta or in the United States is a wonderful glimpse into everyday people's lives. The stories are down to earth, very realistic of the issues immigrants face in their search for a new life, how one overcomes these difficulties and gets on.
In the story of Mrs's Sen it also shows how some immigrants actually feel that they are "outsiders" throughout their life and how difficult it is for them to feel at home - ever. On the other hand you get Twinkle and Sanjeev (born and bred in the United States) quite at home and who only consider themselves Indian because they enjoy Indian food! The book covers characters as you would see them in real life - the girl next door, the neighbours who are quiet and well behaved, the single mother whom everyone wonders about. The secret of Lahiri's writing is that she brings them all so very much to life that one identifies oneself with some character of her book - Lahiri throughout the book also shows how cultural backgrounds could influence one's life, the irony mixed with compassion as shown to Boori Ma (a simple sweeper of apartments) the difficulty of being close to a person when one does not have any emotional links as in the arranged marriage of Mala and her husband (something that may be incomprehensible to some minds), but which arranges itself beautifully in the story.

Lahiri writes with simplicity and elegance and I do hope she does not stop! This book was also one I discovered at my library.


  1. I absolutely LOVED this book! It was one of the best I've read. Sadly, I think my love for stories came and went with that one. I haven't come across another awesome collection after that.

  2. This was the first of Lahiri's book I read.

    After my recent visit to Calcutta, in West Bengal, a lot of the characteristic she fleshed her characters with, made sense.

  3. I listened to this one on audio and just loved it. This makes me want to get it from the library and listen to it again.

  4. I haven't read this but I have read The Namesake a few years ago and was blown away by it. Funnily enough, it was through that book that I discovered Gogol!

  5. Am glad that everyone has enjoyed Lahiri. She appeals to very basic instincts in all of us - family and roots which are in all of us (I think!)

  6. I've only read this book by Lahiri too, but I've heard the others are amazing too. Can't wait to try them!