Friday, March 21, 2008

The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri and " Unaccustomed Earth " by Jhumpa Lahiri


  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Pub. Date: January 2008
  • ISBN-13: 9780393065695
  • Pages :448pp


India, 1955: as the scars of Partition are just beginning to heal, seventeen-year-old Meera sits enraptured watching the performance of a young man on stage, Dev, singing a song so infused with passion that it arouses in her the first flush of erotic longing. As a rivalry between them ensues, she wonders if she can steal him away from Roopa, her older, more beautiful sister.

When Meera's reverie comes true, it does not lead to the fairy-tale marriage she imagined. Dev's family is steeped in the very kind of orthodoxy her father has long railed against and she finds herself having to tolerate their backward ways, her husband's drunkedness, and the unwanted attentions of his brother. Her only solace is in her sister-in-law Sandhya, with whom she comes to share a tenderness that is as heartbreaking as it is fleeting.

A move to Bombay, so that Dev can chase his dream of success as a Bollywood singer, seems at first like a fresh start, but soon that dream – and their marriage – turns to ashes. It is only when their son is born that things change. For the first time, Meera feels fulfilled. She is finally ready to shape her own destiny. To take control of her world.


What I liked about this book:

* That Manil Suri decided to make a woman the pivotal character. This is admirable because he had to think and be Meera for nearly 455 pages, no easy feat for someone of the opposite gender.

* The book spans nearly three decades...it opens in 1955 and closes in the 1980's. The entire story is played out against the backdrop of important political events of those decades...the readjustment to the Parition (Hindu-Muslim riots), the Indo-China war, the Bangladesh War of Independence, the Emergency of 1975 and so on.

* Suri is a wonderful parent to his characters. Each one of them is lovingly fleshed out complete with a background story, so that the reader knows what set of circumstances prompts them (the characters) to behave in the way they do. I truly admire Suri's dedication to his characters...you can see the work he puts into turning them from mere two-dimensional characters into larger than life figures. Because the book is essentially about relationships, having believable characters with a generous amount of flaws and few virtues is central to the story and Suri pulls that off beautifully.

* He is also an amazing storyteller...with lyrical and sensual writing he spends time building up a story so that before you know it you're not just reading the story but a part of it.

* As I mentioned before, this book is about relationships and motherhood...much of it is about the relationship of a mother with her son in particular. Much of the writing concerning hte mother and son is quite sensual, for instance, take the opening lines from the book:

"Every time I touch you, every time I kiss you, every time I offer you my body, Ashvin. Do you know how tightly you shut your eyes as with your lips you search my skin? Do you know how you thrust your feet towards me, how you reach out your arms, how the sides of your chest strain against my palms? Are you aware of your fingers brushing against my breast, their tips trying to curl around something to hold on to, but slipping instead against my smooth flesh?"

"Ashvin. Do you notice the wetness emerge from my nipples and spill down the slopes of my chest? Is that your tongue that I feel, are you able to steal a taste or two?"


It's really hard to tell if the narrator is talking to a lover or to a child. I'm sure Suri was very deliberate in setting this tone. I believe it was his intention to fashion Meera's relationship with her son on the Hindu goddess Parvati's relationship with the elephant-god Ganesh (Ganesh was made by Parvati to be her protector) and her darker relationship with her other son Andhaka who it is said fell in love with Parvati........

It is at this point I must mention that Suri dips quite generously into India's abundant myth pool to drive his story. As a lover or Indian mythology this was a huge draw for me.

(Shiv,Parvati and Ganesh)

******

What didn't work so well:

Meera, the main protagonist is a beautifully-drawn out character but I didn't like her very much.She was self-absorbed, held grudges and wasn't able to truly love anyone with the exception of her son, Ashvin, towards whom I think she gave such an outpouring of love it made all seem slightly unnatural. And then again, was it really love she fed Ashvin or was it her way of controlling him so he could meet her needs? She came off as cold, selfish, scheming and distrusting of men, but that's probably because the men in her life had failed her, besides she was a woman fighting for a place in a machismo society.

The first half of the book is written in the first person and flowed very smoothly. The second half is written in the second person (this is where Meera talks to her son Ashvin telling him all about the first years of his life and their early years in Bombay etc) and I found the soliloquies to be a little tedious. Meera's cloying devotion to Ashvin and his dependence and loyalty to her (to the extent of excluding his own playmates) was a little hard to swallow.

* Although I did like that the book spanned three decades I have to ask myself why so many Indian writers will, without fail, use the Indian Partition and sectarian violence as the backdrop against which their characters play out their lives?

I predict that the Indian readers will absolutely revel in this book...I'm not sure how it will appeal to Western readers...do write and let me know what you think of the book.

************************


  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Pub. Date: April 2008
  • 352pp
I'm also reading Jhumpa Lahiri's new book, "Unaccustomed Earth". If I remember correctly, Lahiri started her writing career with short stories writing "Interpreter of Maladies" for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. After that she wrote her first full-length novel 'The Namesake"
which was made into a hit movie by Mira Nair
. In "Unaccustomed Earth" she goes back to writing short stories some of which were published earlier in the Newyorker,
here and here. I have to say I am really enjoying most of the stories. Lahiri writes about the everyday life of immigrant (Bengali) families using simple prose that starts oh so quietly and sedately but which almost always holds a big surprise at the end. Definitely give "Unaccustomed Earth" a whirl.


61 comments:

Praveen G K said...

Hi,

Just purchased my copy of "Unaccustomed earth" from Borders yesterday!! Couldn't wait to get hold of the copy of the book. I read the first story and it was an overwhelming experience :-) I just love the way she plays around with words!! Will finish reading the remaining stories by weekend, (am a slow reader you see!!) :-)

I saw "The age of Shiva" in the bookstore; will take it up after Mrs. Lahiri's :-)

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Praveen!

Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm so glad you're enjoying Lahiri's new offering. Having read 'The Namesake' and now, "Unaccustomed Earth" (with a couple of short stories that were published in the Newyorker in recent years) I'm convinced Lahiri's forte is short stories. Have you read "Interpreter of Maladies"? I'd love to know how that compares with UE.

You will enjoy the Manil Suri book too. Have you read "Death of Vishnu"?

Praveen G K said...

Hi,

I have read the "Interpreter of Maladies" and it was lovely. But, I somehow prefered "The Namesake" since I could identify so many things that she has written about! Will let you know how I feel about the book at the end of it all :-)

I haven't read "Death of Vishnu". Will queue it up :-)

jenclair said...

I love that you consider Suri "a wonderful parent to his characters."
Whether or not I like the characters in a novel, I like to think the author has a sincere relationship with them. The idea of using the connections with myths to develop the characters is also something I enjoy.

Nymeth said...

I recently read (and loved) Interpreter of Maladies, so it's exciting to discover that she has a new collection out. I really look forward to reading it. I know just what you mean about her stories starting out quietly and then blowing you away by the end.

bethany said...

I didn't even know Jhumpa Lahiri had another book out!! thanks! I will have to get it immediately.

Also, I liked your review on The Age of Shiva. I have another book by him, The Death of Vishnu...I haven't read it yet though, I just got it. Do you recommend that one?

Thanks for really great reviews!

sharanyamanivannan said...

I think I'll be reviewing "Unaccustomed Earth" next, for an Indian paper. Just finished writing my review of Chitra B Divakaruni's latest book for them, which was a disappointment, even by the adjusted standards by which I approach her work (usually, beautiful writing, repetitive plots). Will blog it.

Lotus Reads said...

@Praveen ~ I hear ya about "The Namesake",I,too,related to the characters and their story. It was such a moving read, but somehow I still prefer Lahiri's short stories. I managed to talk to someone today who has read both, UE and Interpreter of Maladies and she said that while "Interpreter..." was good, she found "UE" to be much better! So you have a lot to look forward to! :)

Lotus Reads said...

@Jenclair ~ As you read "Age of Shiva" you can literally feel Suri's love and nurturing for his characters bounce off the page. Even when I don't like them (the characters) he gets me to care for them simply because I know he has created them with such care and tenderness.

Lotus Reads said...

@Nymeth ~ Hello! How are you? If you do get around to reading "UE" you're in for a treat...one reviewer stated that her latest writing is reminiscent of a young Alice Munro. Will visit you next week for sure. The next couple of days will find me away from the pc for much of the time as I have house renovations going on.

Lotus Reads said...

@Bethany ~ Hello! Lahiri's book was out yesterday. Yes, do grab it, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I really enjoyed "Death of Vishnu" when I read it a few years ago and I liked "Age of Shiva" even more. I love Manil Suri's writing voice, he is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. Thank you so,so much for stopping by!

@Sharanya ~ This new book by Chitra Divakaruni...does it have to do with the Mahabharata told from a female perspective? I love the premise, sad to hear it wasn't up to the mark. Which Indian newspaper do you write for? Can I link to you once you write the review for Lahiri's "UE"? Lovely to see you here Sharanya.

Iliana said...

Great review as always Lotus! I read Death of Vishnu several years ago and although I was a bit lost with some of the mythology in that book, I was still enthralled by the story. So, it looks like I may be lost again with this latest book but I will still put it on my TBR list.
Can't wait to hear more about Lahiri's new book! That's another book I've been waiting for.

Sanjay said...

Hey my friend!! How are you? Enjoying spring? I read the winter was particularly bad in your part of the world.

I plan on reading the Jhumpa Lahiri book next. Like you pointed out she has written for the New Yorker, and I have read one of the stories that you linked to. And thank you for the short and sweet recap about her book.

I loved your review about the Manil Suri book "Age Of Shiva".

You say you like the time period that the book spans from 50s to the 80s, but at the end say it is overused. May I posit that writers write against that background since people seem to love reading it? Based on what you write it seems to me that the story could be placed in any era in India no?
Did you think that to be the case? Were the effects of the events on the protagonist profound or did they seems like props?
From what I can recall the lyrical quality of Suri's writing was something the NYT's book reviewer liked too.

I am glad that all characters in this book are so well fleshed out, too often writers forget that. Glad to see that did not happen here.

The opening lines of the book are indeed sensual. I agree with you that Suri is setting this tone deliberately. This is a very complex relationship from what I can gather. Having been failed by all the men in her life, she probably sees a realization of all her dreams and aspirations thru her son. This is not uncommon no? She also sees a chance to shape a man in her child, and create someone who she thinks might fit an image she has in her mind. Was there any hint of an incestuous longing on Meera's part in the book? I hope you don't mind me asking that.
I loved the analogy with Ganesh and Parvati, and indeed Indian mythology is quite rich in tales of all kinds.

I do want to say that this is truly a wonderful review of what might be a very readable book. You truly write beautifully and you captured the heart of the book and its characters so well.

sharanyamanivannan said...

I write for The New Indian Express. Yes, CBD's book is the Mahabharata in Draupadi's voice. Of course you can link me (P.S. Please do update my link in your sidebar)! :)

The Pixy Princess said...

you raise a very interesting point about male authors writing about female characters. I had a long long discussion about this at my last book club meeting and we all agreed that authors who manage to write about characters of the opposite sex and yet have such a deep insight into the psyche are quite genius!
Other authors who have done this well: Alexander McCall Smith (#1 Ladies' Detective Series), Ewan McGregor (Atonement), Richard B Wright (clara Callan)

simran said...

You know i love this genre of realistic, emotional writing and plz continue posting more reviews about such books. But i'd also like to break away from this theme for some time and reccommend to readers a totally different genre. Recently i have delved into the fantasy genre and absolutely enjoyed it. The books i am refferring to are The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. They are simply fantastic and caught me awestruck at the man's creativity and imagination.
In fact, Disney and Walden are coming up with the latest Narnia movie-Prince Caspian, this May 16th. It promises to be awesome by the looks of the trailor. Watch the trailor here- http://www.disney.in
It'll entrall you for sure!

A Reader from India said...

Lotus, that was a wonderfrul review as usual. The magazines here did some very critical reviews of 'The Age of Shiva' and after reading an excerpt in The Hindu, I was not sure I wanted to read this book. I find themes suggestive of incest very disturbing, still remember how I felt affected by 'Sons and Lovers' by D H Lawrence.

I liked your review and also the beautiful picture of Shiva's family. I am curious about the story of Andhaka, was he Parvati's son?

Literary Feline said...

I am looking forward to reading Unaccustomed Earth. I will probably wait for the paperback copy, however. I still have yet to read Interpreter of Maladies but hope to remedy that this year.

I have an earlier book by Manil Suri sitting in my TBR room at the moment. Her latest is another one I've been curious about.

I appreciate your thoughts on both books, Lotus!

Jyothsna said...

Hi Lotus! how ahve you been? As usual, the review is quite intriguing. I remember reading a review of Death of Vishnu when the book was out, in the Times. Suri's book titles have something to do with Indian mythology, isn't it? Right now I'd love to read some mythological stories in modern perspective. Good idea no?

tanabata said...

Yay! I enjoyed both books I've read by her so I'm glad to hear that Jhumpa Lahiri has a new book out! Something to look forward to. :)

Anali said...

Hi Lotus! Jhumpa Lahiri was in the Boston area this week doing a reading. I found out too late and wasn't able to go. I couldn't believe it! I really want to read her new book. And thanks for the links to the short stories. I saved them to del.icio.us to read later.

Olivia said...

Hm, by posting that image of the three deities you've made me wonder something. They remind me of the popular Catholic images of Jesus, the Virgin and saints which were created in the 19th century, therefore they look sweet and sugary and sentimental.

I wonder if the common images of the Hindu gods originate around the same time.

Id it is said...

Maybe that was Suri's intent to make Meera selfish and incapable of giving all of herself. I've no clue though why Suri wanted to do that to his protagonist unless there was a connection with Hindu Mythology that he wanted to lead the reader toward.

Though your review makes this read almost irresistible, but I'm not sure I'll pick up this one as it would require in depth understanding of Hindu mythology.

Lotus Reads said...

@Iliana ~ Hello, hello! Yes, the mythology references can be confusing but a perfect excuse for delving into an unknown and fascinating realm! I didn't find a glossary of terms in the book (would have been nice if they had included one) but I think Suri's website has one. Did you write a review for "Death of Vishnu"? If you have, I would love to read it!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanj!

Things are going well here, thanks! Spring is finally here so that's a great thing. We seem to have had the longest winter!

Based on what you write it seems to me that the story could be placed in any era in India no?
Did you think that to be the case? Were the effects of the events on the protagonist profound or did they seems like props?


Good question, I am so glad you asked that! Although I personally feel that the Partition has been overused in Indo-Anglian Lit. I have to concede that Suri wove it into his story in such a way that many of his characters' personalities/situations etc. were indeed affected by experiences during the Partition...in other words, it did not serve as merely a prop although something about the way I wrote about it in my review may have certainly suggested that! Sorry!

The opening lines of the book are indeed sensual. I agree with you that Suri is setting this tone deliberately. This is a very complex relationship from what I can gather. Having been failed by all the men in her life, she probably sees a realization of all her dreams and aspirations thru her son. This is not uncommon no? She also sees a chance to shape a man in her child, and create someone who she thinks might fit an image she has in her mind. Was there any hint of an incestuous longing on Meera's part in the book?

Meera's relationship with her son was complex indeed, for all the reasons you mentioned and also because she always had this urge to be the central, most adored figure in the lives of all her men, whether it was her father, husband etc. In her son she finally found someone she could manipulate into loving her the way she wanted to be loved/adored. Was there incestuous longing in their relationship? Yes, you could say that, but nothing terribly overt. That Mani Suri could incorporate such a theme into his story and make it all seem so natural is a testament to his skill as a writer I think.

Really appreciate your comment Sanj, thanks!

Lotus Reads said...

@Nicole ~ I agree! It does take genius to write in the voice of another gender and I salute the authors that have pulled it off! Thanks for the "Atonement" reminder, I really do want to read that book!

@A Reader~ Hi! Thank you for letting me know about the critical reviews that this book received from the press in India...I am definitely going to have to read some of them. As I read the book I will admit I wondered how readers and critics alike would accept the book, especially the suggested incestuous longing...for myself, I think Suri's masterful writing blends all those longings very successfully and tastefully into the story.

Lotus Reads said...

@A Reader ~ Hello again! Sorry I didn't address your question about "Andhaka" in my earlier comment. This is what Suri's website has to say about him:

Andhaka: Born from a drop of sweat when Parvati placed her hands in jest over Shiva’s eyes, Andhaka was blind at birth. When he regained his vision, he saw Parvati and fell in love with her—it was only after Shiva impaled him with a trident and drained his blood that Andhaka was absolved of sin.

http://www.manilsuri.com/suri-shiva-glossary.htm

Thanks for the question!

Lotus Reads said...

@Literary Feline ~ It's a pleasure and I so appreciate you writing in. I haven't read "Interpreter of Maladies" either but hope to very soon. Short stories today enjoy a popularity that they didn't enjoy earlier..it's a genre even I didn't fully appreciate until very recently. I think you will enjoy "Unaccustomed Earth"

@Jyothsna ~ You said:

Right now I'd love to read some mythological stories in modern perspective. Good idea no?

That's a great idea and the Canongate series must have heard you because they have a series of myths and legends that have been retold using contemporary perspectives. One of my favorites from the series is "Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood. Also Chitra Devakaurni has written "Palace of Illusions" which is narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the 5 Pandava brothers...you could say it is the feminist interpretation of the Mahabharat.

Sanjay said...

Hey my friend, I just wanted to say thank you for your response, much appreciated. Have a wonderful rest of the Sunday and a great start to your week ahead.

Happy Reader said...

Lotus - I am currently reading "Unaccustomed Earth" as well and I love her stories so far!
A great review of Manil Suri's book. The opening lines you've posted makes me want to read the book right away! Thanks for the great recommendations.

Sai said...

Hey Lotus:
I loved your review about "Shiva". Sounds like a great read. I must say though, that although I agree with you that the partition theme is overused and so are stories based on sectarian violence....yet that is essentially an important aspect and that era did shape South Asian politics. The point is that did the book move past that and using that as a background weave around the characters and their circumstances.

About Jhumpa Lahiri's book, I loved both Interpreter of Maladies and Namesake. I will most certainly read this.

Thanks for an excellent review!

Laura said...

Hello!! I just finished the first two stories in Jhumpa Lahri's new book and they are GENIUS! I love her!!!! Thanks for the great reviews!

Lotus Reads said...

@Nat ~ Definitely something to look forward to. One of the criticisms made about Lahiri is that all her books so far have to do with the immigrant (Bengali) experience which leads to the question...to be successful and convincing should an author stick with writing what he/she knows? Lahiri seems to think so. Even her locales very seldom stray from the New England/Massachusetts area where she grew up. As much as I love her writing I just wonder if there will come a time when this theme sound tired to her readers? We'll have to wait and see I suppose.

@Anali ~ Oh, i know so well how you feel but I get the feeling that she will read in your area again because she is a Boston resident, isn't she? Manil Suri read here recently and I was so upset at myself for not being able to attend.

@Olivia ~ I find Hindu mythology fascinating because there are so many gods and goddesses in the pantheon and quite a few are related or/and have avatars. Although I have been exposed to the stories from the time I was a child, my knowledge on this topic is just a drop in the ocean.

@Id ~ Hi! Some readers I daresay would see Meera as a strong woman for daring to stand up for herself in a world dictated by men. It was just my view that she was selfish, had a harsh tongue and therefore unlikeable.

Lotus Reads said...

@Sanj ~ Thank you! Had a great w/end, just wish it was longer! :)

@Chitts ~ Hey, no problem! Glad your enjoying "UE" which one is your favorite story so far?

@Sai~ As always, lovely to see you here. You're right, the Partition does play a huge and influencial role in the lives of many Indians,especially the previous two generations...it's just that recently so many authors have used it as a backdrop that I am a tad wary of seeing it come up in almost every piece of Indo-Anglian literature I read! :)

@Laura ~ Hi!!! Do you have a favorite story? I'd love to hear about it if you do. Mine was the first one (about the widower and his married daughter) and the Hema/Kaushik trilogy. I also enjoyed the story of the married Bengali woman and how the arrival of a young Bengali man to their neck the woods transforms her otherwise mundane life.

Anali said...

I think she lives in NY now, but she used to live in the Boston area. Hopefully she'll be back soon and I'll get advance notice of her reading! ; )

Laura said...

Dear Anjali,

I have only finished the first three stories...and so far I love them all! But on the way to work this morning I found myself thinking about the characters from the first story.....would love to have a whole novel about them!!!

more later!

I am just in love with her writing!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I saw "Unaccustomed Earth" in my newspaper's book review section this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to reading it!

apu said...

my first visit here...an interesting read. I just finished reading this book, but my impressions are very different from yours. I felt Manil Suri never quite got into the skin of any of the characters. Meera, especially, doesn't come through clearly at all, except for her petulance. I agree with you though that the first half reads better than the second...

heather (errantdreams) said...

Suri is a wonderful parent to his characters.

What a startling and insightful comment. I've never heard this phrased in this way before, and never would have thought of it, yet it's perfect!

Lotus Reads said...

Hey again Anali You'll have to tell me if you get to see her!

@Laura ~ So true! Many of her short stories have enough of a plot and substance to be turned into novellas if not a full blown novel! Jhumpa, are you listening? :)

@J ~ I can't wait for you to read it and to know what you think! Once a few of you are done reading the book I am going to create links to your reviews if that's OK.

Lotus Reads said...

@Apu ~ I love that you wrote in and I'm very pleased to see you sport a different impression. As you know, I admire Suri's ability to create such diverse characters. Mind you, I thought all of them with the exception of a few, were callous and not terribly likable, but I will still maintain that he puts a lot of care into building his characters, atleast that's how it comes across to me.

On a different note, do you feel that Suri could have lost the "Arya" subplot or did you think it blended in well with the rest of the story?

@Heather ~ Thank you! :) Not sure what exactly it was that made me think he was paternal towards his characters...I think it's the extreme care he takes with little details about them...

So appreciate the comment, thank you!

apu said...

Oh yes, I agree with you there - I thought the Arya character was one of the least well defined...he seemed to flit between caveman-type to wannabe-romantic with all the rss baggage in between! I thought the novel would have done better with some ruthless snipping there. In fact, to me, Dev came across as the best done of all the characters, atleast he is consistent.

Olivia said...

My friend gave me the book "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini and I was *sure* I'd read your review here, but I must be mistaken. So now am wondering just where I did hear of it before! Anyway, have you read it?

Nyssaneala said...

Both of these books sound like ones I would enjoy. Great reviews! I'm glad to see that Lahiri has a new book out. I'm not always a fan of short stories, but I like hers.

Lucca, said...

Lotus, I'm back. I'm so sorry for the year's disappearance!
how've you been?

Anonymous said...

The Age of Shiva was a disappointing read....promising to begin with, but seems to get distracted from its development of the characters. Ashwin was too scantily sketched.

Unaccustomed Earth was brilliant....left me wanting an encore. A couple of stories were less than engrossing, but the rest were almost magnetic in their allure.

Gentle Reader said...

My book group just chose the Lahiri for next month--I'm really looking forward to it :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Apu...really appreciate your comments, sorry I have been so sluggish with a response. I have to agree with you about Arya, if he had been left out I doubt i would have missed him that much. Dev's character was a nicely-crafted one, I also liked Meera's father...his character was my favorite in the book.

@Olivia ~ I bought Khaled Hossein's second book the day it arrived in the stores but loaned it out and have yet to get it back :(
I've heard it's a terrific read. Have you finished reading it?

@nyssaneala ~ I wasn't a fan of short stories either, but oft late I have been enjoying them quite a bit...there are some really good ones out there.

@Lucca ~ So glad you're back, where were you? Please don't do this disappearing trick again, ok? :)

Id it is said...

I heard Jhumpa Lahiri on NPR a few days ago; that's one articulate woman! I can't wait to read this one.

And yes, Junot Diaz's novel is a delight and I don't say this because he's a homeboy. Incidentally, I heard him on the campus a few days ago and that was quite an experience! He is a connoisseur of profanities and slang that he uses liberally and in the most endearing way.

Lucca, said...

as much as I can - no more disappearing tricks!

Olivia said...

Aaah, panicking because I haven't got to it yet - am currently juggling 2 books and need to finish them all before I move!

gs said...

hello lr
after reading your reviews,i decided to buy both the books and have started reading 'the unaccustomed earth'.i have read 'the age of vishnu' and i liked manil suri's writing style.i am a fan of jhumpa lahiri and i often read extracts out of her 'namesake'. i hope to enjoy reading both the books.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Anon

I do apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Perhaps it had to do with the number of characters? I find that sometimes when a book has too many characters...the secondary characters are not fleshed out as well as the first.

Lotus Reads said...

@Gentle Reader ~ I think you will love Lahiri's short stories, they are really easy to read. The prose is not flowery, infact, it's quite matter-of-fact which comes as quite a breath of fresh air to me.

@Id ~ Lahiri read here last night I think it was and a friend said pretty much the same thing you did, that she was very clear and articulate. I can't wait to read Junot Diaz's novel, especially after your glowing review.

@Lucca ~ Wokay! ;)

@Olivia ~ You're moving again? Which side of the Atlantic this time? I hope it's closer to us?

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, gs!

So happy to see you here! I'm afraid I have been rather scarce in the blogosphere, but I hope to change that shortly.

You will find "Age of Shiva" very different from 'Death of Vishnu". Vishnu was fairly precise, concise and took place within a time frame of 24 or was it 48 hours. Shiva is an epic in comparison and spans over several decades, also the writing style is very different. I should dearly love to hear your thoughts.

Enjoy "Unaccustomed Earth", it is quite a treat.

Take care and see you over at your blog soon.

gs said...

hi lr
as soon as i finish reading both the books,i will surely share my thoughts with you.look forward to seeing you in the blogosphere soon.you are being missed.

Alpa said...

Hi Lotus, I finished Death of Vishnu after a pretty awesome beginning but the did not really enjoy the second half.

I agree, the partition/war theme does get a little old with the dad and his Indira Gandhi connections and Arya and his activist group.

Although, I loved the part where Meera was leaving in the doli after she got married, wondering how many other brides were in her place. I thought that was just soooo exotic :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Alpa!

I am so glad you stopped by to share your impressions with me! Yes, true, the second half did seem to lose momentum, but what a beginning, no?

Yes, I loved the doli scene too, there were lots of other exotic images as well. I think that Indians of the diaspora (of which Suri is one) do tend to look on the home country as being exotic and very often it is inadvertently expressed in their writings.

Was your appreciation of the book marred in any way by the relationship Meera shared with her son? I think the book remains under appreciated with many people because they just couldn't accept how Suri projected the mother-son relationship in this fine book.

Lulu said...

hi lotus,
i am visiting your blog after ages but it is so wonderful as always to be exposed to new books and authours through your fabulous blog.
i just finished reading "unaccustomed earth" and i totally loved it. i think the stories are much more satisfying than the ones in "interpreter of maladies" and i found myself narrating many of them to my husband. i can't wait for jhumpa lahiris's next offering - i love her style and story telling!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Lulu!

Yes, it's been a long time, but how wonderful to see you here! I am so glad you liked "UE", I was most impressed too! It's wonderful how she can write these wonderful stories, so rich in emotion and characterization using such simple, spare language. I wonder what else she has in the works, I can't wait to find out!

Raj said...

Unaccustomed Earth was a good read. I've added you to my RSS reader. Nice recommendations.
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