Thursday, 8 October 2015
The Namesake - review
Gogol Ganguli has spent much of his life struggling with his unusual name.
Named after the Russian author by his father, Gogol has to find a way to be at peace with it as he grows up.
The Namesake is about many things, the importance of names is just one of them. Gogol ends up with his name because of a lost letter between Bangladesh and America, and has to shoulder what he sees - at times - as an unfair burden.
The Namesake is also about Gogol's parents, Ashima and Ashoke, who start a new life in America after an arranged marriage. Navigating a whole new country while holding on to their own traditions becomes a delicate balancing act for them both.
When Gogol turns 18, he officially sheds the name, becoming Nikhil instead. As he goes through college and growing into his 20s and 30s, Nikhil distances himself more and more from his parents and his Bengali heritage. It takes his father suddenly dying for Nikhil to reconnect with his mother and his sister in a meaningful way.
The Namesake is a beautiful novel. It's a meditation on the connections we make with family, friends and the world around us, and how a simple thing like a name can affect all of those connections.
Lahiri writes about Ashoke and Ashima and their culture with great affection and you can feel the warmth of it coming off the pagees.