Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed EarthI am probably not going to have the chance to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Man Booker Prize longlisted novel ‘The Lowland’ any time soon as it isn’t due to be published in the UK until the end of September so I thought I would try a collection of her short stories instead.  ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ contains eight exquisitely written stories.  The first half of the collection consists of five stand-alone stories while the second half is more of a novella in three parts featuring the same characters, Hema and Kaushik.

Many of the critics’ reviews on the inside cover of ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ expressed pleasant surprise that a collection of short stories had turned out to be such a commercial success as it is quite rare for such books to sell well.  Having now read Lahiri’s stories for myself, I can easily see why she has become such a respected and popular author.  The stories focus specifically on the experience of second-generation Bengali migrants in the United States and deal with a narrow set of themes based around cultural differences and generational conflict.  My favourite stories were ‘Only Goodness’ which was about a young woman’s relationship with her alcoholic brother and ‘Hell-Heaven’, a tale about a lonely young mother’s secret infatuation with a friend and the devastating consequences this has for her family.

‘Unaccustomed Earth’ is a consistently excellent collection of stories.  Lahiri writes perceptively about family relationships from all angles in a style which is elegant, understated and always immensely readable.  Her dual citizenship means that she could potentially be the first person to win both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize if ‘The Lowland’ makes it onto the shortlist.  Either way, in the meantime, I will definitely be searching out her first collection of short stories ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ and her first novel ‘The Namesake’.

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8 responses to “Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

  1. I’m glad to see this review and to know that you enjoyed the book. I read Namesake a few years ago (I enjoyed it, and subsequently rented the movie) and I’ve since bought her short story collections, but I haven’t gotten very far. I need to pick them up again! I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of The Lowland and I will probably finish and write about it in the coming month.

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  2. This is the one work by Lahiri that I haven’t read and if I have time I will try and rectify that before the Booker short list is announced. I read her previous collection, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, when it won the Pulitzer and it won even me, as anti short-stories as they come, over. If you get the chance, do pick up a copy.

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  3. I’ve read all of her stuff. Can’t wait for LOWLAND.

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  4. Have this one on my shelf, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I personally think that short stories are her strong suit, and I liked Interpreter of Maladies more than the Namesake, so I will be curious to see your reaction. Your review just moved this up a bit on my list–may have to get it on audio, since my 100 mile one-way daily commute (with no bus/train option) is making me into a nearly exclusive audiobook reader for now.

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  5. Pingback: Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  6. I liked these short stories much better than her earlier works actually. And I especially loved that trilogy at the end. This was one of the best books I read last year. I am really looking forward to reading The Lowland.

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  7. Pingback: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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