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The Namesake


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About the Author

Jhumpa Lahiri has been a Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, but is currently teaching in New York. She has published her fiction in various US journals including the New Yorker, and has won several US prizes for her work.


This recording features a spare, elegant reading by Choudhury of a story about identity, cultural assimilation and the burden of the past. Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move from Calcutta to Cambridge, Mass., where they have a son who ends up being tagged with the strange name of Gogol. How he gets the name serves as an important theme as he deals with it and his heritage. The fact that Choudhury herself is half Indian aids her narration, as characters with that country's accent abound here. But much more important to this project is her lovely, mellifluous voice and even tone, which complements the text's own lush imagery. Perhaps owing to her English pronunciation, she is also adept at putting a polished spin on the voices of the upper-crust Manhattanites with whom Gogol becomes intertwined for a while. With such an excellent narrator, the recording neither needs nor includes much in the way of musical embellishment. The book itself makes several jumps in time and occasionally seems disjointed, but this production is a treat for the sheer combination of Lahiri's striking, often enchanting descriptions and Choudhury's graceful rendering of them. Simultaneous release with the Houghton Mifflin hardcover (Forecasts, July 7). (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'Extraordinary...a book that spins gold out of the straw of ordinary lives. The calm, pellucid grace of her prose, the sustained stretch of crystal clear writing, its elegant pianissimo tone, pulls the reader from beginning to end in one neat arc. Every detail, every observation, every sentence rings with the clarity of truth. The Namesake is a novel that makes its reader feel privileged to be allowed access to its immensely empathetic world.' The Times'Impeccably written' Daily Mail'Gracious...in refined, empathetic prose...each of Lahiri's characters patches together their own identity, making this resonant fable neither uniquely Asian nor uniquely American, but tenderly, wryly human.' Hephzibah Anderson, The Observer'This is certainly a novel that explores the concepts of cultural identity, of rootlessness, of tradition and familial expectation...but ...it never succumbs to the cliches those themes so often entail. Instead, Lahiri turns it into something both larger and simpler: the story of a man and his family, of his life and hopes, loves and sorrows. She has a talent -- magical, sly, cumulative -- that most writers would kill for.' Julie Myerson, The Guardian'Jhumpa Lahiri's excellent first novel... is the work of a fine writer, discriminating, compassionate and surprising. It is, too, a story for our times.' Rachel Cusk, Evening Standard'A joy to read.' Sunday Telegraph'Eloquent...Lahiri's prose is striking. Spurning the antsy, transcultural wordplay of may Asian-American authors, she writes with journalistic precision. Like a Victorian urban chronicler, she loves to amass inventories. Things matter to her and to her characters; they are bulwarks against drift and confusion. The Namesake...is lucid, generous in its narrative scope, and an extremely accomplished first novel.' Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph'Covering about 30 years...the novel manages to represent, without patronising, life within the confines of a professional expatriate enclave. Lahiri is at her best when mapping these confines, and the conflicts between individual pursuits and family loyalties...Fluid, accessible and...very good indeed.' The Independent'Good novelists, like Bengali parents, must make their creations unique, and Lahiri's central characters are painfully believable...An extremely good first novel, a glowing miniature of a tiny family making the voyage between two worlds.' Maggie Gee

Adult/High School-A novel about assimilation and generational differences. Gogol is so named because his father believes that sitting up in a sleeping car reading Nikolai Gogol's "The Overcoat" saved him when the train he was on derailed and most passengers perished. After his arranged marriage, the man and his wife leave India for America, where he eventually becomes a professor. They adopt American ways, yet all of their friends are Bengalis. But for young Gogol and his sister, Boston is home, and trips to Calcutta to visit relatives are voyages to a foreign land. He finds his strange name a constant irritant, and eventually he changes it to Nikhil. When he is a senior at Yale, his father finally tells him the story of his name. Moving to New York to work as an architect, he meets Maxine, his first real love, but they separate after his father dies. Later, his mother reintroduces him to a Bengali woman, and they fall in love and marry, but their union does not last. The tale comes full circle when the protagonist, home for a Bengali Christmas, rediscovers his father's gift of Gogol's short stories. This novel will attract not just teens of other cultures, but also readers struggling with the challenges of growing up and tugging at family ties.-Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Gogol Ganguli is born to Indian immigrants newly arrived in Cambridge, MA, after their arranged marriage. Gogol becomes the Russian author's namesake as a newborn, when his grandmother's letter decreeing his official name fails to arrive from Calcutta. As a first-generation American, Gogol grows up resenting both his strange name and the yoke of Indian culture imposed by his parents and their extended family of Indian expatriates. This first novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies) cobbles together everyday events with mesmerizing inner dialog and glimpses of Bengali culture. It's a family saga burnished to glowing intensity by the perfection of Indian-British actress Sarita Choudhury's delivery. Essential for all fiction collections.AJudith Robinson, Univ. at Buffalo, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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