The daughter of Indian immigrants from West Bengal, Jhumpa Lahiri spent her formative years in America, but she is keenly aware of her Bengali inheritance. Her short-story collections (Interpreter of Maladies, published in 1999 and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and Unaccustomed Earth, published in 2008) and her first novel, The Namesake (2003), have explored tensions between Bengali cultural traditions and Western modernity, and the conflict between family duty and individual freedom.
The Lowland, longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, develops these themes. It begins in Calcutta in the 1950s in the modest home where Subhash and Udayan, whose father works as a clerk for the Indian Railways, are growing up. It is the old, familiar story of two contrasting brothers: