Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is my first foray into the work of Pulitzer winning Lahiri and I was absolutely astonished by Whereabouts, published this month. Pictured is the proof @bloomsburypublishing kindly sent us, swipe for a pic of the impactful cover (rearranged our local Waterstones for it ).
A novel structured in staccato vignettes, the location and name of the narrator are never revealed which gives this a universal feel – this is an abstract place and she could be any woman in any European city. It is a plotless insight into the characters daily life which was so captivating and mesmerising because of the strength of the literary skill on show. Reading this felt like experiencing a symphony, not a single word is superfluous. The New York Times called this “shrinking life down to its essence” whilst other reviewers have marvelled at how she has made the mundane ordinary utterly extraordinary. I shouldn’t have been so gripped by this delicate slim novel but I truly was.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri is a true testament to the power of observation. Exquisitely written, this short novel about a woman in her forties who lives a relatively solitary life in Italy conveys so much — and Lahiri’s words will, at times, have you tingling with recognition, such is the magic of her prose. We learn of the protagonist’s life in the present as well as her past, through compellingly structured fragments that will leave you wanting more. A range of themes are tackled; mental health, love, loss, infidelity and solitude. I found it incredibly raw, powerful and quite unlike anything else I have read over the last year.
Mind-blowingly, Lahiri actually wrote this in Italian and translated it herself into English. Some people eh?!