If You Loved 'The Lowland,' Try Reading These 9 Books, Too
Since first hitting shelves back in 2013, Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland has racked up the (extremely well-deserved) accolades. To wit, the book was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, a finalist the National Book Award for Fiction, and on the shortlist for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. There's no secret as to why Lahiri's book has been so lauded — it's just good. Very good.
Lahiri's novel centers on a pair of brothers — the restrained Subhash and his more idealistic baby brother Udayan — who grow up side by side in '60s-era India. The boys' paths take them in different directions, with Subhash heading off to America to pursue his studies, while Udayan stays behind in Calcutta, secretly participating in a Communist uprising that has some pretty terrible consequences. The book adeptly weaves between time, place, and narrator, steadily laying out a full-bodied story that gives attention and care to all of the novel's various characters (not just Udayan and Subhash). It's devastating and rich, and it's extremely hard to put down.
If you’ve already read (and loved) The Lowland and are looking for other titles similar to it, there's a lot more to choose from, depending on what exactly about Lahiri's lovingly crafted story appealed to you the most.
1. If you'd like to try another book from a modern author with Indian roots, go for Sunetra Guptra's The Glassblower's Breath
Gupta's novel came out in 1993, but the ideas and concepts she explores within the book's pages — especially as they apply to feminist thought and intellectual exploration — still feel fresh and vital to today's society. Like Lahiri, Gupta has been lauded by the literary elite, and she's got a ton of accolades under her belt. The Glassblower's Breath is her second novel, but it's a fine starting point for fans of The Lowland.
2. If you want to read another novel about the deep bonds between brothers, pick up T he Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
Subhash and Udayan are eventually parted by ideology, a recurring theme throughout literature. Stevenson's 1889 novel is set way back in 1745, but that doesn't stop it from tying quite firmly into the same feelings and themes of The Lowland — namely, what happens to beloved brothers when their political leanings tear them apart. The Master of Ballantrae follows the historical Jacobite Rising, a series of rebellions that compellingly impact the Durie brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.
3. If you'd like to delve into a story about single fathers raising daughters, Schroder by Amity Gaige is the ticket
Loosely based on the real life tale of Clark Rockefeller (or, at least, the guy who said he was Clark Rockefeller), Gaige's novel is a moving survey of the strong bond between fathers and daughters. Like The Lowland, Gaige's story isn't about an infallible father, but one who doesn't let his copious mistakes derail his love for his young daughter. Lahiri's novel is all about the bonds between family members, and although Subhash and Udayan's relationship drives the book's first half, the relationship between Subhash and his daughter (well, kind of) Bela form the heart of its final acts.
4. If you want to try out another book about parents who are also professors, grab Willa Cather's The Professor's House
Both Subhash and his eventual wife Gauri are dedicated academics who study and teach at various universities. That air of academia informs a lot of the novel's action, and you can read more of that in Cather's The Professor's House. The novel explores what happens after a career steeped in learning and teaching ends, and everything that follows — the kind of themes explored later in The Lowland.
5. If you're interested in another novel about the Naxalite movement in India, you'll love Neel Mukherjee's The Lives of Others
Udayan's dedication to the Communist revolution forms the core of his adult being, even as it remains vaguely misunderstood by nearly everyone in his family. Bone up on what happened during the Naxalite movement in India with another novel, Mukherjee's lauded The Lives of Others, which also explores how political involvement can destroy a family. Mukherjee's novel is a new one, but like Lahiri's, it's already earned a spot on the Man Booker Prize's shortlist.
6. If you like the novel's nonlinear narrative, you'll probably also enjoy Carole Maso's Ava: A Novel
Lahiri's novel easily slips between time, place, and narrator to deliver a full look at a complex story. Maso's ambitious Ava similarly relies on a sliding narrative and a number of narrators to tell a single story. Ava is a fair bit more experimental than The Lowland, but it's also immensely satisfying and a compelling way to try out different ways of storytelling.
7. If you'd like to delve into another novel about fraught relationships between mothers and daughters, seek out Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here
Sure, you've probably seen the Natalie Portman- and Susan Sarandon-starring movie based on Simpson's book, but have you tried the source material? It's a stunner, and man, can it make you angry — just like Lahiri's novel, which eventually spends much of its final act working its way through Gauri and daughter Bela's extremely complicated and hurtful relationship.
8. If you want to investigate the farming-centric life that Bela explores as an adult, try Kristin Kimball's The Dirty Life
Despite being born to a pair of academics, Bela rejects the book-heavy lifestyle both her parents prefer and strikes out on her own. Adverse to graduate work, Bela finds her place in the physical labor necessary for farming, working at various farms around America before finally settling into one. Kimball's funny and visceral memoir recalls her own transition from city girl to farm wife. You'll never look at cows the same way again.
9. If you just want to read more from Lahiri, pick up The Namesake
Lahiri's first novel is a perfect companion to The Lowland, as it too jumps between life in Calcutta and New England, also using a single family to tell a universal story about acceptance, love, and secrets. Even better? Once you finish it, you can check out Mira Nair's film version of the novel, which stars Kal Penn.