Micro review: ‘Whereabouts’ by Jhumpa Lahiri – Times of India

After a gap of eight years since her last novel, Pulitzer-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Whereabouts’ released in April 2021. And in an unusual literary accomplishment, Lahiri initially wrote ‘Whereabouts’ in Italian (titled ‘Dove mi trovo’ in 2018) which she translated into English herself.

‘Whereabouts’ is about a single, middle-aged Italian woman who works as a writer-professor. Divided into 46 chapters, each titled as phrases (for instance: “At the Museum”), the pieces are a reflection of the unnamed narrator’s thoughts– about her father’s untimely death, meeting her colleagues where she doesn’t feel at ease, her married friend whom she is attracted to, etc. Other characters are mentioned in the book–like her therapist, mother, friends or “him”– but the story mainly focuses on her life in isolation. At the end, the narrator leaves her birthplace behind for a fellowship in a new country. And possibly, restart her life…

Lahiri’s latest novel ‘Whereabouts’ is very different from her previous works. She earlier wrote about the experiences of Indian-immigrants; in ‘Whereabouts’ she is quite discreet about the narrator or the place. Nevertheless, as Lahiri’s first full-fledged novel written in Italian and then translated into English, ‘Whereabouts’ is definitely one of the most-anticipated books of 2021.

How critics view the book:

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Publishers Weekly called it “a meditative and aching snapshot of a life in suspension.”

Sam Sacks writes for the
Wall Street Journal, “primarily this is a mood novel, in which the theme of alienation familiar from Ms. Lahiri’s earlier books has been both transformed and aestheticized”.

Ron Charles writes for the
Washington Post, “Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel ‘Whereabouts’ is a delicate exploration of despair”.

Writing for
The Guardian, Anthony Cummins calls Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Whereabouts’ a “hypnotic disappearing act”.

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