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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri Jhumpa Lahiri's excellent mastery and command of language are amazing. She writes so effortlessly and enchantingly, in such a captivating manner and yet so matter-of-factly that her writing completely enthralls me. Just look at one of my favorite passages - so simple and beautiful: "Try to remember it always," he said once Gogol had reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. "Remember that you and I made this journey together to a place where there was nowhere left to go." No wonder it took me quite a few days after finishing this book to finally surface from under the charm of her language before I was able to figure out what exactly kept nagging me about The Namesake.You see, The Namesake flows so well that it almost easy to overlook the weak plot development and the unfortunate wasting of so much potential that this story could have had. After finishing it, I had the pleasant 'warm & fuzzy' nostalgic feeling - and yet almost immediately the narrative itself began to fade in my mind, and it became hard to remember what exactly happened over the three hundred pages.In a nutshell, this is a story about the immigrant experience. Ashoke and Ashima are first-generation immigrants to the US from India, and they do not have the easiest time adjusting to the peculiarities of their new home and its culture. Gogol, the protagonist, is their son who is tasked with living the double life, so to speak - fitting in with the culture of his parents as well as the culture of his family's new country. Simultaneously experiencing two cultures is not always easy, and this is the main theme of this book. And these were the bits of the story that I could relate to in a way, being a first-generation immigrant myself."For being a foreigner Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy -- a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity of from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect."The Namesake is titled so because Gogol is named after a famous Russian writer Nikolai Gogol (the reason I picked up this book, by the way. Nikolai Gogol is a great writer). Famous namesake or not, young Gogol dislikes his unusual moniker quite a bit. This is a set-up for the conflict, which, unfortunately, I felt was quite underdeveloped. You see, Lahiri takes a subtle approach without the need to hit the reader over the head with her message. The story she tells is lifelike - calm, subdued, without extra glamour added to it, without every set-up resulting in a major conflict. But I feel that this subtlety quite often crosses the line into the lull of dullness. The story becomes almost like a diary - with much everyday filler, many simple events, many instances of telling and not showing, and not enough payoff - at least for me. Apparently I love quick gratifications, and this book did not deliver those.I want to reiterate that my issues with this book were very easy (even for me) to initially disregard because of the beauty and near perfection of Lahiri writing style which makes up for many flaws. But ultimately I felt unsatisfied with the story, and therefore I can only give it 3.5 stars. That said, I already bought two other books by Lahiri and will definitely read them. She seems to be a brilliant writer, and maybe will prove to be a better storyteller in her other works.