Skip to main content

Interpreter of Maladies

Originally published in February 2005, in 2 parts. Book 52 in my first 52 books challenge.
Edited out some stuff unrelated to the review.

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Year published: 1999
Pages: 198
Genre: Literature, short stories
Where got: Second hand

This book had been waiting on my TBR shelf for nearly a year when I finally read it. I had forgotten about it until I visited the Lonely Planet online forum, the Thorn Tree, like I do 2-3 times a week. On the Women’s Branch there was a book discussion going on, and the original poster and several others highly recommended this book. I thought, “Hey, I have this!” and decided there and then that it was about time I read it. Looking over the list of books in the 52 books challenge, I realised I had not read any short stories, so it was perfect to end the challenge with this short story collection. It won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 2000.

Reading progress:
I have been reading 1-2 stories from Interpreter of Maladies per day, and now have four left. The stories belong to the "slice of life" school of short story writing, and describe chapters in the lives of the characters. They are very well written and explore all kinds of issues and feelings. Some are about Indian expatriates in America, others are about Indians in Calcutta.

Finished the last of the short stories today. They are skilfully written glimpses into the lives of ordinary people. Several have in common a sort of longing or wistful nostalgia for something that is never defined in words and which the characters sometimes don’t seem to know themselves. Three out of the nine stories are told in the first person, each of them in a different voice, and the remaining six are 3rd person narratives, each told from the point of view of one person, often someone who doesn’t quite know what is going on with the other character(s). There is subtle humour in some of the stories, while others are serious. Some portray kindness, others cruelty. The unifying theme, apart from most of the characters being Indian, is that of human relations, interactions, cross-purposes and misunderstandings. Out of the stories, the final two are my favourites. Both are funny, although in quite different ways. One, which is a kind of parable, made me smile, the other made me laugh out loud. All in all, I liked all the stories, although of course some are better than others.

Rating: An excellent collection of short stories about Indians and being Indian, home and abroad. 4 stars.

This is the last of the original 52 books reviews. For an unforeseeable number of coming Mondays I will continue to post old reviews from that abandoned blog until I run out of them.


Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme