“Skillful… Lahiri’s sentences are honed to minimalist beauty. A loose narrative emerges of an Italian woman at a crossroads in her life . . . The chapters detail encounters, but other humans are like passing shadows. The pain of the narrator’s isolation feels extremely real.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This novella is a classical portrait of the modern epidemic of urban loneliness.
This intriguing novel portrays the lonely existence, in an unnamed place, of an unnamed narrator.
She is a woman, in her mid-40s, who is a loner and lives a secluded life. A writer, an academician, and a spinster, living a spartan life in the “urban cocoon” of an unnamed city, she is in constant conversation with herself.
She has virtually no family, no relationships, a handful of friends, who are also nameless and thinly characterised.
Whereabouts is a novel in vignettes, each chapter an anecdote, from an everyday activity that is typically experienced alone, although sometimes highlighting the consolation of and conversation with strangers.
It is a book without a plot, yet manages to weave a story. The narrator’s relationship with the city she calls home, and its inhabitants, is marked by knowing and not-knowing viz things she comes across regularly, as opposed to how these unnamed people around her, will act and react on a daily basis.
Though plotless, the novel remains compelling, as a peephole into a mind sequestered from others. There’s something cinematic and lyrical about the way the novel progresses, each chapter exhibiting a new place, plotted out as a map rather than a timeline, a conversation rather than a story. Lahiri’s simple prose is powerful and compelling – as you’re drawn into the life of the narrator. You visualise things exactly as she wants you to see, the myriad elements of her daily life. Translated from the original Italian, to English, this was a difficult novel to review, because the pain of the narrator’s isolation feels extremely real and palpable. Somewhere, I related to it.
Added 30th September 2021
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This book is listed as a novel. It at just over 90 pages seems more like a Novella. The book actually consists of very short chapters of only a few pages. There is no plot but it is simply snippets of a persons life. There are 2 recurring characters, an ex boyfriend and the narrators mother. They appear in the chapters very rarely but the ex boyfriend is the only thing that makes this feel like a novel.
The snippets are interesting, and show a life probably in a mid sized town, where one knows all the shop owners and all the people at the local cafes. Lahiri is a terrific writer and her talents do come flashing through each small chapter as she brings you into this woman’s life.
This book was written in Italian and translated by the author who writes in English.
This is a book that can be finished in one sitting.
One may. It be thrilled with the price for such a short novel, but I would still recommend this to be read.
Added 7th July 2021