Saturday, 22 December 2012

Book Review- Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri

Paperback, 333 pages
Published 2009 by Random house india (first published January 1st 2008)
edition language
original title
Unaccustomed Earth
These eight stories by beloved and bestselling author Jhumpa Lahiri take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. Here they enter the worlds of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. Rich with the signature gifts that have established Jhumpa Lahiri as one of our most essential writers, Unaccustomed Earth exquisitely renders the most intricate workings of the heart and mind.
My Review-
Jhumpa Lahiri reveals the plight of the Indians staying abroad with a collection of short stories named Unaccustomed Earth. There have been generations of Indians who have been living in the US. They have settled back in there and embraced the culture beautiffully with time. The changes that have come have been drastic. It is the transition and the aftermaths of the same that Lahiri discusses through a set of short stories. The book has been divided into two parts. The first part is a set of five short stories not related to each other. There is a dignified diversity in the characters in which you cannot just call a single, or a couple of characters to be the principal one. Each one has a different life, different set of problems and a solution they’ve sought out for, affecting the lives of the other characters. When they all amalgamate, they give you a distinctive peek into the complex working of the human minds. The major themes, or highlights are generation gap, drastic changes that completely change a person, extra-marital relationships and love after a certain age that in India is considered to be unsuitable.
The second set of stories, on the other hand are about the same people who’ve gone through different phases and how differently their lives have turned out. Ultimately, they discover love in the most unlikely place. The second part is entitled Hema and Kaushik after the names of the characters around which the stories revolve. Hema’s and Kaushik’s families are friends and the first story is an account of their families from a similar background trying to adjust themselves to the new environment. The family gradually drifts apart due to various reasons. The second story encompasses Kaushik’s life after the death of his mother, when his father marries someone else. The state of mind of Kaushik and the complicated relationships have been given the priority. In the third story, Kaushik meets Hema after twenty long years. Hema, a professor by profession is getting over her affair with a married man. Kaushik, now a photojournalist travelling the world is now set to settle down with a job in Hong Kong. Their encounter in Italy sends huge sparks flying and they realise they’ve met their soul  mates.
Frankly, I’m not very much happy with Lahiri again restricting herself with her characters only being Bengali. She has got oodles of talent. I understand that being a Bengali, she feels she has ample knowledge about the mentalities. If she can explore different cultures within India and get enough knowledge about them she’d craft equally good characters, just not Bengali. The detailed descriptions, and intricacies somehow slow down the pace of the story. She gets a [+1] for the detailing and a [-1] for the slow pace, both however don’t nullify each other. They render the story a whole different effect which is nowhere else to be found.
About The Author-
born- July 11, 1967 in London (England), The United Kingdom    

genre- Literature & Fiction   

Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.

Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School and later received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She then received multiple degrees from Boston University: an M.A. in English, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She took up a fellowship at Provincetown's Fine Arts Work Center, which lasted for the next two years (1997-1998).

In 2001, she married Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist who was then Deputy Editor of TIME Latin America. Lahiri currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. She has been a Vice President of the PEN American Center since 2005.

Lahiri taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Much of her short fiction concerns the lives of Indian-Americans, particularly Bengalis.

She received the following awards, among others:
1999 - PEN/Hemingway Award (Best Fiction Debut of the Year) for "Interpreter of Maladies";
2000 - The New Yorker's Best Debut of the Year for "Interpreter of Maladies";
2000 - Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut Interpreter of Maladies (less)


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