As the fifth book that I have read in The 65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20’s– I can say that The Namesake is the first book that I truly enjoyed. The characters were established early on and stayed familiar throughout the work- which is something that many of the other books from this project have lacked so far. This is probably the first book that I would have liked to read outside of this project as well.
So, what makes The Namesake different from the other books? It is not the quality of the writing, as all of the books have been well written- it is the quality of the plot. Unlike some of the other books- it actually has one. Without giving too much away- this book chronicles the lives of an immigrant family that arrived in America from Calcutta. It goes through the trials and tribulations of becoming an American, while the characters try to carry on many of the norms from the Bengali culture.
The main character, Gogol, embodies many of these trials and tribulations that come from settling in a new place. His parents attempt to help him have the best of both worlds. They wish for him to continue the traditions of his heritage, while he goes to school and earns perfect grades so that he may go to one of the best colleges in the land. Gogol feels this pressure and like many children- he rebels, although it is in a very slight way.
There are many lessons that one could take from this book- but one of the most obvious is that people are rarely satisfied with what they have. Gogol disliked his name and decided that changing it would change who he was. Instead- he found that he was living two different lives. He lived the life of Nikhil- a carefree, American man, who scoffed at tradition and the life of Gogol- the boy who felt the pressure of upholding his Bengali heritage. In the end, there was always a conflict between these two types of self and Gogol found that he was not truly happy as either man. He was only happy when he was able to be his full self and as the book concluded- he was just figuring this important point out.
Overall Rating: 5 of 5. This is one of those books that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and was not really glad for it to be over (although it did wrap up well). It is not necessarily a revolutionary book- but it gave me a unique insight into a culture that I have never experienced before. Out of all the books so far, I feel that The Namesake did the best when it came to having a focused plot and a clear point of view- which is something I greatly appreciate in books.
Have you read The Namesake? Do you have a different view or think more of the same? Either way- feel free to comment below!
Want to know where this project started? Take a look here.