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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Book review: After film, Namesake the novel exceeds expectations

Published: November 21, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

I am definitely the kind of person who, when I see a good movie that was adapted from a novel, finds and reads the original book. I’ve done this with various movies, such as Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, and most recently, The Namesake.

I saw the movie this summer, in parts, on Encore. I kept tuning in at the same time and only being able to watch about an hour of the film. Finally I Tivoed it and was able to watch it from beginning to end.

I absolutely loved the film, but it wasn’t the visuals or acting that caught my interest (though they were good); it was the story itself that hooked me.

I thought the characters were interesting and that you really cared about all of them.Also, it’s easy to see inside the characters and to understand why they did what they did especially because the movie goes so much into depth about each character’s past.

After watching the film I decided to pick up Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same title. I was amazed at how well the movie stayed true to the book, but was certainly not surprised to discover how much better the novel was.

Lahiri is clearly a gifted author. It is rare for me to feel so connected to characters in the novels I read and to understand them so thoroughly. The main character, Gogol, is so interesting and likable that it’s impossible not to care about and connect with him.

As far as plot goes, the book is truthful. Not everyone’s life is extravagant and the book’s plot is nowhere near as important as the characters in it. It’s not an exciting book, because it shouldn’t be.

It was just incredibly refreshing to read a novel that sticks to its purpose and is still incredibly interesting. You learn so much about Bengali culture and what it is like to grow up in America with Bengali influences.

The story centers around a guy who is named Gogol by his parents. In Bengali culture, every child has a pet name and a good name.

The good name is to be used for official and other important things, but the pet name is for your parents and those close to you.

Gogol was meant to be a pet name until his parents would receive a good name from his grandmother. This name never arrives and eventually Gogol’s parents decide on Nikhil.

This name though, affects Gogol’s life immensely and it is this journey that the book revolves around.

The book is an incredible reflection on the importance of names, family, tradition, and relationships. It’s an interesting and quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone who has any interest in these things.

The movie is fantastic as well, so if you’re in no mood to read, perhaps the movie is the thing for you. Either way, definitely give The Namesake a look. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.