Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction
The Lowland was nominated for Man Booker Prize and National Book Award for Fiction in the year 2013. It was also shortlisted for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2014.National Humanities Medal was awarded to the Indian-American author by Mr. Barak Obama, the last year (2014).
Two brothers, a brilliant woman haunted by her unfortunate past, a love that exceeds the boundaries of death and a movement of the country which will decide the future of countless people, are what this book revolves around. The Lowland is a tale of Udayan and Subhash Mitra who are born just fifteen months apart, but possess starkly different personalities and they encounter futures that are poles apart.
In the 1960s, Udayan Mitra is an impulsive person with a magnetizing personality and gets involved in the Naxalite movement, a movement aimed to eradicate inequality and poverty. On the other hand his brother chooses an entirely different life of scientific research in a quiet, peaceful coastal corner of America.
Life brings Subhash back to India after he learns about the unfortunate incident that happens to his brother in the lowland near his family home. The incident brings him back to his roots and his torn his family together, including his brother’s wife. He tries to heal wounds which his brother left behind.
A story based in both India and America, The Lowland is fiercely thoughtful and overflows with human emotion. The book gives you goose bumps as the complex intricacies of varied human emotions like love, affinity and dedication are unveiled.
Disclaimer: Important parts of the story are revealed in the review below.
The Lowland is a story from 1960s that aptly describes the Naxalite Movement and varied emotions of the people attached with it.
It also differentiates the life in America and that of the people of India, particularly Calcutta.
Subhash and Udayan were thick as thieves but the other name of life is tragedy. Their ideologies separate them.
Subhash, the elder brother, quiet one, always obeying orders, choses his life as a Scientific Researcher in America.
While, Udayan, the rebellious one decides to join a communist party fighting inequality. Gauri, the younger sister of Manash (Udayan’s mate) and Udayan fall in love with each other and marry secretly. Later, Udayan takes Gauri to her in-laws house, where she was obviously, not very welcomed.
The policemen were ordered to shoot the ones associated with the party wherever they found them. Their search for Udayan ended when they found him hiding under the water in the lowland and so did he when three bullets pierced through him.
This part of the story leaves you unbalanced because it is challenging for us to decide whether to fight for our rights, to pursue the path of patriotism or to live for the family that is dependent on us.
Subhash returned to Calcutta for the first time from America after all the happenings. He, after facing tough time, convinced Gauri and his parents to allow him to take Gauri with him because her unborn child needed a shield. Yes, Gauri was pregnant.
Bela was a brilliant child and Subhash a wonderful father. The efforts from Gauri to raise Bela were always lacking because she reminded her of Udayan. Once during a break, when Subhash and Bela were off to visit Calcutta, Gauri parted her way and left them with a letter.
Slowly, Bela grew up and started to remain aloof even from Subhash and finally walked away for her further studies and job. She stayed away from home now, visiting her father once in a while. Her mother was dead to her from a long time.
One time she came home and revealed to him that she was pregnant. She didn’t want the child’s father to know it and that she wanted to raise her child in Rhode Island where she was raised.
For Bela, even after the truth was unfolded, Subhash remained her father and Udayan, just a distinct unclear personality. Meghna, Bela’s daughter, Bela and Subhash started to live together with Elsie visiting Subhash now and then. Subhash was now able to move on not waiting for Gauri anymore.
If you’re reading this novel for a storyline that has great twist and turns, don’t. Because then you would feel this book as a stretched one and would get easily bored with it.
If you’re reading this novel for description of various things, environment, people, society, emotions, changes, life, etcetera you should definitely go for this one. New vocabulary and a detailed description is something you don’t get in every other novel.
4 stars out of 5, from my side.