Cover of The Lowland
Rated 3.81
22,385 ratings

The Lowland

By: Jhumpa Lahiri

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Imprint: Knopf

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780307265746

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On Sale: | Pages: 352

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Two brothers bound by tragedy; a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past; a country torn by revolution: the Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times best-selling author gives us a powerful new novel--set in both India and America--that explores the price of idealism and a love that can last long past death.Growing up in Calcutta, born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead of them. It is the 1960s, and Udayan--charismatic and impulsive--finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty: he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America. But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind--including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife.Suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland expands the range of one of our most dazzling storytellers, seamlessly interweaving the historical and the personal across generations and geographies. This masterly novel of fate and will, exile and return, is a tour de force and an instant classic.
"The Lowland" is a stylistic achievement and marks a shift in Ms. Lahiri's writing. Long sentences precede shorter, clipped ones. As always, the novel's full of sharp insights about marriage and parenthood, politics and commitment. It is the kind of book that stays with you long after you finish it.
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lahiri, who was born in England of Indian background, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for her first book, a short-story collection titled “Interpreter of Maladies.” Her artful writing combines short, simple sentences with lyrical turns of phrase. She sorts through her characters' lives with uncommon delicacy. And yet, “The Lowland” has its limitations. A revelation at the end falls short of fully explaining the behavior of the woman both brothers love. When the novel lags, it's not because it's too long. Rather, it's because we've skimmed across the surface of so many lives without getting fully invested in what's happening to them. A reasonable conclusion is that, for all her talents, Jhumpa Lahiri works best in the tighter format of the short story.
—Seattle Times
It's a fairly cookie-cutter and clichéd premise that at best could be euphemized as "archetypal" or "classic" in scope.... If you are reading "The Lowland" for anthropological insights over all else, you might feel satiated. Even then, there are problems: Lahiri sometimes dips into cheaply microwaved otherness.... The plots are largely overdone and overdone in a flat register, creating a sort of novel as lecture in parts.... Must fiction writers be masters of all forms? Lahiri makes us forget we even need the novel — or at least calls into question why we'd cast novelists as the overlords of Letters. And so with "The Lowland," one might smile and nod as politely as one of Lahiri's own characters and say that, well, we cannot wait until her next story collection.
—Los Angeles Times
It sounds epic in sweep, especially when combined with the laden, potent themes, the intertwining of politics and sexuality, the cauterizing of emotional wounds and grievances, and the repetition of places and personalities.... Throughout, Lahiri's prose hums along as efficiently as a well-tuned engine... For all that, “The Lowland” does not seem to be trying to be an epic novel.... Lahiri's work has always seemed much more assured within the tighter confines of the short story than the novel.... If some of those strengths are present in the new novel, they seem adrift in its larger swaths of time and space, diluted by waves of politics and history that Lahiri herself has chosen to bring in.
—New York Times
"The Lowland," Jhumpa Lahiri's expansive and intimate new novel, explores the complex story of the Mitra family. Loyalty and betrayal, lies and forgiveness, filial responsibility and abandonment, the choices and sacrifices we make to find our way in the world are beautifully wrought in this novel.... Lahiri's writing is precise and restrained.
—Portland Oregonian
THE LOWLAND takes a while to get going. After a great opening chapter, the novel gets bogged down in politics and minutiae about the Naxalite movement.... What a shame it would be, however, if a reader were to stop after these first 50 pages. He or she would miss one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read. To reveal the details of the plot would spoil the pleasure, but Lahiri fans shouldn't be surprised to learn that the novel is packed with beautiful, deceptively simple sentences and perceptive observations about American life.... Like Lahiri's story collections, this novel is filled with small touches whose cumulative power leads to an emotionally devastating conclusion. THE LOWLAND is a lovely book.
Lahiri shifts nimbly between moments of mischief and happiness to scenes of dread and violence. Her prose, as always, is a miracle of delicate strength, like those threads of spider silk that, wound together, are somehow stronger than steel. But once tragedy strikes, the emotional range of the novel contracts and an astringent fog of grief settles over these characters.... Although writing this fine is easy to praise, it's not always easy to enjoy. And there's something naggingly synthetic about this tableau of woe.... If parts of “The Lowland” feel static, it's also true that Lahiri can accelerate the passage of time in moments of terror with mesmerizing effect.
—Washington Post
Some chapters are written in the present tense while others are in the past tense; some days, time passes slowly (sometimes too slowly), but in other parts it moves so quickly that the chronology often becomes confusing. Readers, as well as the characters, have trouble sorting out what has already happened from what is happening in the present.... With characters dragging along the past, the result is a much heavier, slower book than Lahiri's early novels.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The Lowland” switches point of view between Subhash, Gauri, Bela, and Subhash's mother, Bijoli, as Lahiri examines the cost of sacrifice and deception on each member of the family. When writing about the emotional distance separating her characters, it's easy for a reader to feel disconnected at times, as well. But by the end of the novel, Lahiri's precise writing and clarity of expression ends up casting its usual spell. Subhash who, quietly and without reward, tries to care for those around him, always feels inferior to his brilliant, fiery brother. Yet it's the gentler sibling who who ends up being the novel's hero. “The Lowland” looks at the nature of sacrifice and love, the price of personal freedom, and what really constitutes the the greater good.
—Christian Science Monitor
Jhumpa Lahiri has reached literary high ground with The Lowland, cultivating a story as rich as the titular terrain of the Calcutta neighborhood she profiles, where an early '70s tragedy irrevocably fractures the Mitra family — and sets in motion a lifetime of heartbreak and hope, of choices both shockingly selfish and selfless.... Lahiri's gift is to portray a woman as flawed as Gauri in a nonetheless sympathetic light.... It is at its most illuminating — at its peak — in its intimacy.
—USA Today
...a masterful work that shines with brilliant language as it follows the sad lives of a single family living in a Bengali suburb of Calcutta called Tollygunge.... As the novel progresses to the present day, Lahiri's rich descriptions tell the wider story by shifting viewpoints between family members.... We are fortunate that Jhumpa Lahiri has shared her words with all of us, and with these words has created a masterpiece with “The Lowland.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
In her new novel, Jhumpa Lahiri returns confidently to the themes that have earned her critical praise, an eager audience and a Pulitzer Prize: cultural dissonance between generations; the uneasiness of the recently emigrated; the unbreakable, unpredictable bonds of family.... Though some of the novel's early pages read a bit too much like an unwelcome history lesson, the rest of The Lowland never loses sight of its very human tragedies and triumphs.... The novel is not a mystery by any means, though its final chapter allows us a unique view of a devastating event around which much of the story is built. But Lahiri's sublimely unfolding plot and her delicate revelations about the relationships between these characters are best savored with fresh eye...
—Miami Herald
“The Lowland” is certainly Ms. Lahiri's most ambitious undertaking yet, and it eventually opens out into a moving family story. It is initially hobbled, however, by pages and pages of historical exposition, by a schematic plotline and by a disjunction between the author's scrupulous, lapidary prose and the dramatic, Dickensian events she recounts. It is only in the second half that Ms. Lahiri's talent for capturing the small emotional details of her characters' daily lives takes over, immersing us in their stories and making us less aware of the book's creaky and often noisy hydraulics.... What turns this novel around and ultimately seizes the reader's imagination is Ms. Lahiri's deeply felt depiction of Subhash's relationship with Bela... By its end, this ungainly novel reminds us of Ms. Lahiri's copious talents as a writer, however imperfectly they are employed here.
—New York Times
[D]espite its puzzling inclusion on the short list for this year's Man Booker prize and the long list for the National Book Award, "The Lowland" is a disappointment — more diffuse and less assured than Lahiri's debut novel.... "The Lowland" is filled with portentous sentences, deployed as substitutes for a more nuanced account of motive or a more thorough integration of character and story.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Time, history and memory are at the heart of Jhumpa Lahiri's delicate new novel, “The Lowland,” her fourth book of fiction exploring the liminal worlds of Bengali exiles and expatriates.... Gently and elegantly told, the story of the Mitra family complicates Lahiri's abiding themes to reveal the insidious burden of secrets, grief and guilt, and above all, the shattering risks and redemptive power of love.
—Kansas City Star
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