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Whereabouts Reviews

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts

Jhumpa Lahiri

3.82 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication date: 4 May 2021
ISBN: 9781526629951

A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies--her first in nearly a decade--about a woman questioning her place in the world, wavering between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties.

4 stars out of 5
22 May 2021

"It’s elegantly done, a portrait veiled in quiet melancholy"

“Solitude: it’s become my trade,” she tells us. “As it requires a certain discipline, it’s a condition I try to perfect. And yet it plagues me . . .” Is a life that leaves a light footprint a life wasted? Must the price of freedom be loneliness? Slowly, the narrative, charting the passage of a year, builds up a realisation that you cannot escape yourself or your past. It’s elegantly done, a portrait veiled in quiet melancholy, but which still celebrates the unexpected joys of the quotidian, and how much more sharply you can appreciate them when alone

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Helen Cullen
12 May 2021

"Intelligent, elegant and destined to become book of the year"

There is an eerie quality to Lahiri’s prose that causes it to linger in the mind long after reading. Deceptively simple, the language is powerfully controlled to render the greatest possible impact on the reader without ever feeling overblown or hyperbolic. From the very first episode, there is an overwhelming confidence in the execution of this work. Not one word is wasted. A total absence of exposition ensures each micro-fiction is surgically edited to its barest, most beautiful bones. And yet, there is a warmth here that encourages great affection for the anonymous narrator. Written with intelligence, elegance, empathy and hypnotic power, Whereabouts is destined to become a book of the year.

4 stars out of 5
8 May 2021

"Lahiri has spun a delicately layered story of a woman reflecting on her past, present and future"

Lahiri has spun a delicately layered story of a woman reflecting on her past, present and future. It lends itself to being read in a single sitting, during which time you’ll feel your own life standing still, suspended. The author has a talent for capturing the everyday, a talent the narrator acknowledges when she and her friend’s husband go their separate ways after a chance encounter: ‘Then we, too, become two shadows projected on to the wall: a routine spectacle, impossible to capture.’ Impossible for some, perhaps, but not for Jhumpa Lahiri.

4 stars out of 5
6 May 2021

"a fascinating shift"

Though plotless, the novel remains compelling, as a peephole into a mind sequestered from others. What lies behind the narrator’s unyielding solitude (“a condition I try to perfect”) remains obscure. Portraying such a character, mysteriously adrift in an urban landscape, Whereabouts feels like a movie by Michelangelo Antonioni, and there’s something cinematic about the way the novel progresses spatially, each chapter exhibiting a new place, plotted out as a map rather than a timeline.

3 stars out of 5
26 Apr 2021

"Part of the book’s peculiar magnetism lies in its clash of candour and coyness... Watching her plot a return journey ought to be interesting."

Part of the book’s peculiar magnetism lies in its clash of candour and coyness. When the narrator mentions “one of my lovers” or accepts a friend’s invitation to house-sit in the country “given that I’m going through a hard patch right now”, the remarks land like plot twists. Problems arise out of nowhere, whether she’s trying to mend a broken plate and getting Super Glue all over her hands or picking up a lover’s accidental pocket call that will expose a lie about how he spent his day...  Still, when the narrator of Whereabouts uninterestedly mentions “protests in the centre... the helicopters have been circling the city all morning”, with nothing further said, it’s a mark of how the novel’s hypnotically surgical gleam can verge on bleached sterility. There has always been a sense that Lahiri’s self-reinvention requires Italy to be a blank canvas, and whatever its strategic usefulness, her version of it doesn’t seem a place any fiction writer can profitably stay long. Watching her plot a return journey ought to be interesting.

4 stars out of 5
Lucy Atkins
25 Apr 2021

"With her first book of fiction in eight years, this Pulitzer prizewinning writer is on brilliant form"

 It is oddly compelling. The narrator vibrates with unexpressed emotion, sealed inside her painstaking detachment. Her observations are minute, precise, poetic. The shadows of pedestrians are “skittish ghosts advancing in a row, obedient souls passing from one realm to another”. Detachment — this notion of the individual passing through — has long been a preoccupation in Lahiri’s work, but here it feels obsessional, woven into the very structure of the novel, with each chapter a self-contained unit, pinned to a location that the ghostlike narrator barely touches. Even the delicate precision of the language contains this watchful separation: every word, inevitably, has been carefully chosen.