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Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The LowlandJhumpa Lahiri made a stunning entry on the international literary scene. Her debut book of short-stories, Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2000 and her 2003 novel The Namesake, was adapted into a film. Her follow-up book of short stories Unaccustomed Earth, released in 2008, shot straight to the New York Times Best Seller list. Now her latest book, The Lowland, has been included on the 2013 Man Booker shortlist released last week. Not a bad pedigree.

The Lowland is about Subhash and Udayan two Bengali brothers growing up in post-World War 2 Calcutta. Udayan is the intrepid one, the brave one “blind to self-constraints, like an animal incapable of perceiving certain colours.” Sabhash was the cautious one. The one who “waited for chaotic games to end, for shouts to subside”, whose favourite moments were “when he was alone, or felt alone.’’

Although the character of each slightly baffled the other, they grow up more like twins, virtually inseparable. Both curious and academic, their idea of excitement is to create a small radio from spare parts, their private portal to the cataclysmic events unfolding around them through the 1960s and 1970s. Then, at University, while Subhash is devoted only to his studies physically frightened of the brutality that is unfolding across the city, Udayan becomes an active participant in the Naxalite movement, the Maoist-based

Skios by Michael Frayn

There is no doubt that Michael Frayn is a funny guy. Very funny. His play Noises Off, which was recently revived in London’s West End, is one of the funniest comedies around. A truly laugh-till-your-sides-ache experience. The plot of his latest book, Skios, is relatively straightforward and hinges on that…

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

In Narcopolis, Jeet Thayil painstakingly reveals the squalid yet almost collegiate world of a small opium den in Mumbai in the 1970s, a place where he spent many years in a haze of self-induced oblivion.  Thayil, a former addict, is a renowned poet and his lyricism lifts even the desperation…

Reader’s block

Strangely, I had a bad start to my Booker bookathon. I was beginning to feel like one of those Olympians who showed so much promise in the lead-up to competition but then bombed out once the Games began. The reader’s equivalent of writer’s block. I just couldn’t engage with Hilary…


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