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The Lowland | [Jhumpa Lahiri]

The Lowland

Born just 15 months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.

Born just 15 months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. 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 goes 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.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.

Long-listed for the 2013 Man Booker Prize

©2013 Jhumpa Lahiri (P)2013 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"Haunting... A novel that crosses generations, oceans, and the chasms within families... Lahiri’s skill is reflected not only in her restrained and lyric prose, but also in her moving forward chronological time while simultaneously unfolding memory, which does not fade in spite of the years. A formidable and beautiful book." (Publishers Weekly)

"An absolute triumph. Lahiri uses a gorgeously rendered Calcutta landscape to profound effect.... As shocking complexities tragedies, and revelations multiply, Lahiri astutely examines the psychological nuances of conviction, guilt, grief, marriage, and parenthood, and delicately but firmly dissects the moral conundrums inherent in violent revolution. Renowned for her exquisite prose and penetrating insights, Lahiri attains new heights of artistry - flawless transparency, immersive intimacy with characters and place - in her spellbinding fourth book and second novel. A magnificent, universal, and indelible work of literature... Lahiri’s standing increases with each book, and this is her most compelling yet." (Donna Seaman, Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (507 )
5 star
 (153)
4 star
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3 star
 (106)
2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.9 (442 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (436 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (59)
2 star
 (19)
1 star
 (11)
Performance
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  •  
    Simeen Chicago, IL, United States 10-09-13
    Simeen Chicago, IL, United States 10-09-13 Member Since 2011

    Avid reader and foodie. I read mostly fiction but thanks to my awesome book club I am branching out and finding some great books!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "My least favorite of all her work."
    What did you like best about The Lowland? What did you like least?

    Maybe because I'm such a fan of her other work, I am more critical, but I thought this book was a bust.

    I thought the characters were really dull and not fleshed out well. I certainly didn't sympathize with them, nor did I care what happened to them. I didn't get a good sense of their motivation for the choices they made- and overall it was just dull. That's the best I can say.

    If you want to read Lahiri, I suggest starting with something else- if I had read this first, I wouldn't have gone back for any more.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jhumpa Lahiri again?

    Sure- The Namesake is a masterpiece and 10x better.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Sunil Malhotra?

    Yes, I thought he did a nice job.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Nope.


    Any additional comments?

    There was a moment where a character goes through a big shift (sorry I don't want to write out a big spoiler, but it's about 3/4 way through and you'll know it when you hear it), and it was just so out of left field and silly, all I could do was roll my eyes. Usually Jhumpa Lahiri's characters are so complex, and through her writing you really understand them- good and bad. But here- it was like reading about a family of paper dolls. Flat and dimension-less.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine New York, NY 10-24-13
    Catherine New York, NY 10-24-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Distractingly Poor Performance"
    Any additional comments?

    I usually don't think too hard about the narration. I think the best narration should recede into the background and allow you to enjoy the story. But Sunil Malhotra had an irritatingly morose delivery at all times. This is not the world's most cheerful book, but he read the entire thing as if he were speaking at a funeral, even at the book's happy moments. He also paused at weird times in the text. I found myself thinking more about the narration than about the book itself. Not a good experience.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda B. San Francisco, Ca 11-12-13
    Linda B. San Francisco, Ca 11-12-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
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    Story
    "Disappointing"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I wouldn't recommend this book. I usually love her writing. The characters in this book were not particularly interesting. The characters all seemed one dimensional, never developed or surprising in any way. The story was a multi-generational study of an Indian family in Calcutta and the United States. It includes discussion of political unrest in India and how it affects the family.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    The ending was the most interesting part of the book.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    The performance was ok.


    Was The Lowland worth the listening time?

    One of my favorite authors but not one of my favorite books.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonny West Brattleboro, VT, United States 10-13-13
    Bonny West Brattleboro, VT, United States 10-13-13 Member Since 2011

    JHK

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Deeply felt, beautifully written"

    This is a lovely and intense book about (among other things) the consequences of our actions for those we love . . . the two brothers at the center of the book have profound effects on each others' lives, and, rippling outward, on the lives of their parents, spouses, children. Jhumpa Lahiri does a beautiful job of drawing us into the relationship between the brothers and then into the lives of their families.

    The narrator is generally excellent; I gave him four stars rather than five because I felt his women sounded a little insipid, but this is a quibble. I will keep an eye out for more of his narration; it was moving without being overbearing.

    Highly recommended!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy United States 11-17-13
    Amy United States 11-17-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    "Disappointing and Dull"
    Would you try another book from Jhumpa Lahiri and/or Sunil Malhotra?

    I think Lahiri is a spectacular short story writer, but I've been disappointed by her novels, this one most of all. I won't try another novel from her.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jhumpa Lahiri again?

    A short story collection, perhaps.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The narrator had a tough task--bringing to life a book with so little action and vigor. The book's greatest lack was dialogue: There was almost none of it, and when it did appear, it was trite and uninteresting. Unfortunately, even when he did get some dialogue to read, he tended to drone.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Lowland?

    Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance" is one of the finest books I've ever read--a story of India, told through characters that are beautifully rendered and heartbreaking. Lahiri's book needed to follow that lead: The history needed to matter because the characters mattered, and vice versa. In this book, the history felt leaden and burdensome. The story was dull and flabby and predictable; so was the language. And the characters were stereotypes, always doing something you could foresee 100 pages before.


    Any additional comments?

    I used this book to help me fall asleep at night. It was that boring.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LISA SCLAFANI Brookville, NY United States 10-18-13
    LISA SCLAFANI Brookville, NY United States 10-18-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Most beautiful book I have read in a long time."
    What did you love best about The Lowland?

    The language is overwhelming. It is like poetry. That, along with an excellent narrator made this book unforgettable and immensely pleasurable to read. It had a good story, gave good depth to the characters providing their many perspectives and left you constantly considering their motives and desires.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The main character had infinite capacity for caring for his child and redefined the word father for me. Still , he was credible while constantly striving to do the right thing.


    What about Sunil Malhotra’s performance did you like?

    He did all of the different voices well, men, women and especially children! He had excellent material to work with but made the reading seamless. The wonderful language and descriptions in the book are particularly poignant when read by this excellent narrator. I usually listen at a speed of 1.25 but this book I set at 1 so I could really savor the reading.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The ending, gives us hope as a main character lets go of a lifetime of resentment, demonstrating the largeness of human nature and it's capability for forgiveness.


    Any additional comments?

    This was the best book I have read in many years. It is a saga with great characters, again demonstrating the immigrant experience, but more importantly showing the wonderful side of human behavior. The language is a delight to listen to, describing both physical characteristics as well as human. Jumpa Lahiri is one of the truly great writers of our time. This is a book to be savored.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzn F Fletcher, VT, US 10-07-13
    Suzn F Fletcher, VT, US 10-07-13 Member Since 2005

    I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Politics, Love and Sorrow, a 3.5"

    Two brothers born 15 months apart, inseparable boys growing up in Naxalbari, a half submerged swamp besotted with refuse and water hyacinths. The beauty and the wasteland feel of the swampy area echos the essence and the life choices of the two brothers. One brother is involved in the underground of the Naxalite movement of West Bengal in the late 1960s. The other brother is headed off to teach college in Rhode Island.
    The two brothers share their lives in a unique fashion, more than either expected.
    This author has a creative voice and although not exactly the happy ending feel good book so many prefer, overall the book held my interest and was worthwhile.
    .

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet 05-05-14
    Janet 05-05-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Boring"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The story failed to grab me, and the performance was lackluster. All in all, it was a snooze.


    Has The Lowland turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    Would you be willing to try another one of Sunil Malhotra’s performances?

    Yes


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Middleton, WI, United States 03-22-14
    Peter Middleton, WI, United States 03-22-14 Member Since 2008

    Tell us about yourself!I am an avid reader but enjoy listening while waking to work, ironing, doing dishes, etc. Listening to novels is an entirely different experience than reading; a well narrated story is a cross between drama and written fiction. Listening to books on Audible has been a wonderful experience.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Near perfect"
    What does Sunil Malhotra bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Distinctions between different sub- ontinent accents (police, grandparents, professors) which make the listen richer.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    From my perspective, this is a brilliant novel/listen. The writing is lyrical, beautiful and easy to follow. The themes she deals with below the surface of the story are powerful and deal with loss, family bonds, good and bad, and the contemporary issues of bridging of cultures: east and west, young and old. Sunil Malhotra renders a spectacular, well-paced, and nuanced reading with smooth dialect transitiosns throughout. This book kept me thinking well after I was done with it--always a good sign.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. BATON ROUGE, LA, United States 02-17-14
    Dr. BATON ROUGE, LA, United States 02-17-14 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not the best book this year, but up there"
    What made the experience of listening to The Lowland the most enjoyable?

    I was glad I listened to the book, for foreign language books have terms I can't pronounce and it makes a difficult read for me.


    What did you like best about this story?

    the back and forth nature of the story


    What does Sunil Malhotra bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    pronunciation for sure!


    If you could rename The Lowland, what would you call it?

    wouldn't--the name was perfect for the area.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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