Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2000With accomplished precision and gentle eloquence, Jhumpa Lahiri traces the crosscurrents set in motion when immigrants, expatriates, and their children arrive, quite literally, at a cultural divide. The nine stories in this stunning debut collection unerringly chart the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations.
A blackout forces a young Indian American couple to make confessions that unravel their tattered domestic peace. An Indian-American girl recognizes her cultural identity during a Halloween celebration while the Pakastani civil war rages on television in the background. A latchkey kid with a single working mother finds affinity with a woman from Calcutta. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession.
Imbued with the sensual details of Indian culture, these stories speak with passion and wisdom to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner. Like the interpreter of the title story, Lahiri translates between the strict traditions of her ancestors and a baffling new world.
©2000 Jhumpa Lahiri; (P)2000 HighBridge Company
"Moving and authoritative pictures of culture shock and displaced identity." (Kirkus Reviews)
"The crystalline writing in the nine stories of this Pulitzer Prize-winning debut collection dazzles. These sensitive explorations of the lives of Indian immigrants and expatriates touch on universal themes, making them at once specific and broad in their appeal. Narrator Matilda Novak's light voice is fine for stories written by a young woman, and the hint of melody in her reading is typical of Indian voices." (AudioFile)
The stories in this book were amazing. They gave such a beautiful view into the Indian culture. I longed to know the sense of community and comraderie that the author makes so integral a part of these stories. As the stories ended I was sad to end my relationship with the well-drawn and intriguing characters.
The reason I rated this audiobook only 3 stars was not the novel itself, but the narration and production of the audio. I found the narrator's style to be distracting and at times downright annoying. Short interludes of music separated the book into equal sections, but this distracted from the flow of the novel because they often came in the middle of a story and at times in the middle of a character conversation.
Dispite the poor quality of the audio production, I would recommend this novel for its wonderful characterizations and fascinating stories.
I bought this book after having read the Namesake, because I had enjoyed it so much. I was not disappointed. Each of the nine stories in this book offers a brief glimpse into the narrator's life. The stories offer no grandiose defining moments, but rather a very simple series of affecting moments, most of which center on an Indian protagonist. An American boy's relationship with his Indian nanny; a travel guide in India shares his imaginative subtext as he spends a day with an Indian-American family; etc. The narrator did a wonderful job on this project. I do wish there had been a bit longer break between stories...perhaps with a little music to aid in the transition. I also wish I could have smelled and tasted all of the food in this book! I realized, that during the two weeks I listened to this book, I'd been drawn to cook Indian food twice! (Quite out of the ordinary for me!)
Since there are so many reviews of the book itself, I will review the narration of the audio version.
First, I was distracted by the narrator's style. Her odd, unnatural, and often nasal enunciation of words was annoying. The amaturish and undulating style of her reading the sentences made me wonder if the author picked a friend or family member who wanted to break into the business. This narrator has no business doing this work. Additionally, the narrator certainly did not capture the emotions of the characters.
Secondly, the producers decided to add music to signify the ending of one "chapter" and the beginning of antoher. However, the chapters in the audio version did not coincide with the stories in the book. The music breaks only served to separate the book in to 6 equal parts, which was in the middle of a story.
While the narrator did read at a decent pace, the up and down vocalizations, the inability to capture sentimental or sad emotions and her odd enunciations made this narration one to skip.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Some of the stories were brilliant, some were very good and only a couple were meh. This novel captures for me the right tension between foreignness and loneliness and those small wires, crumbs of connection that bridge people and cultures. Yeah, I dug it.
Personally, I don't care about awards (See William H. Gass). And I really don't care that she's a woman (other than the fact that I'm trying to read more women this year) or that she's Indian American (although both are a significant part of this collection).
I don't believe she was subsidized for either being a woman or being Indian, of if she was I really don't care. Everybody is subsidized by something. White men get the white men subsidy. The rich get the rich subsidy. The educated get the educated subsidy. The poor and broken get the helluva life story subsidy. If I could sum it up, I'd guess that this book probably won the writer lottery: the right good book gets published at the perfect momemnt.
The stories themselves gave me the same temperate, nuanced, soft vibe I get when I read Kazuo Ishiguro or Julian Barnes. So, at least in my mind, she fits/resonnates more into/with the: über-educated, upper-middle, British/East Coast US, 'outsider now inside' club(s) more than the female writer or even Indian American clubs. But then again, I could be wrong.
Anyway, I don't have to say that this was her first published book and she still ended up writing (from what I've heard) solid, serious fiction. So that.
#1 A Temporary Matter
#3 Interpreter of Maladies
#6 Mrs Sen's
#7 This Blessed House
#2 When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine
#9 The Third and Final Continent
#4 A Real Durwan
#8 The Treatment of Bibi Haldar
The reading was good, but the editing was ok. I wasn't a fan of the sound-effects thrown into the middle of chapters and suspect it was done to cover an editing issue. There were also several points where it was evident that there was a break in the reading: volume, reading changed. That is fine that readers need a break, but good post-productin could have masked that a bit better. Other than that I had NO problems with Matilda's read.
This is probably a good book, but the reading in terrible. First off all the reading is very choppy, she cuts all sentences into little phrases, the phrases are read a bit too fast, with long pauses between them, its OK for about 5 minutes or so, then gets very annoying. But the worst is the reader's voice, it is so very, very, very prissy, and she sort of gushes with 'pleasedness' at the most random moments. She does this once in the sample, so listen carefully, because the sample is the lest prissy 5 minutes of the whole book. The style would probably be OK for a trashy romance novel, but this book has a dark side, and the reading style completely destroys this. Also as other reviewers have noted, the book is cut up into chapters, that don't align with the stories.
Don't get this as an audiobook.
Presenting short stories on audio is always challenging. Either too long or too short a pause between 2 stories is awkward. In this case I'd say the producer got it just wrong. There are musical selections between sections of stories, and a rapid fire movement between stories. I could never tell where I was in a tale.
And what is the deal with lovely classical guitar music - in stories that are about Indian immigrants to the US... I can see Jazz, or classical (both have places in the short stories) but this music, while quite nice was just wrong.
It's fair to call Lahiri an American writer; therefore there's nothing wrong with having a non-South Asian American as a narrator. However, I do wish Ms. Novak had done a little more research about the pronunciation of Indian words (Dixit, Laxmi, Lucknow, etc.).
I give this a 3.5-3.75 overall. I thought that some of the stories were pretty average, but there were three that were very good. I think my expectations were high because of all the positive things that I heard, but many stories didn't fulfill those expectations. I liked the title story, as well as the first and last stories the best. The narration was good, although it would have been nice to have different voices used in the various stories.
The one distracting thing in the audio version was that at some points in the stories, music played. It didn't signify the end of a story or end of a track, and it was more distracting than anything else; there was no sense as to the placement of the musical breaks.
Contrary to other reviewers I thought that the reader was outstanding. For the most part she captured the whimsy of the female characters in each story. The male characters came across a bit more flat, but still good enough. She moved into and out of a Bengali accent quite well most of the time.
The stories themselves had a melancholy aura as meditations on the difficulty of creating and sustaining intimacy. There was also a slight hint of Flannery O'Conner as I waited for each story to lead to some disaster. Usually the disaster was milder than in an O'Conner story, to my relief.
These were hours well spent but this is not Checkov and by the end there was a degree of predictability. Still, to get the flavor of India transplanted to Boston, these are worth the listening.
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