This slim paperback – easy to carry and light to hold in bed at night, is a delight to experience. A Pulitzer Prize-winner, it contains nine short stories, each a gem, a brilliant time capsule of people and place.
In some of the stories we encounter Indian people far from their native land, out of their element and struggling to understand Western traditions and mores. Confusion, homesickness, and feelings of not being quite welcome will resonate with anyone who has lived abroad. As will the sense of not belonging, and fears of causing offence through ignorance and unfamiliarity. We see the age-old immigrant struggle of attempts at adaptation versus the desire to remain true to one’s own culture.
Other stories are set in the East, in Calcutta, among simple folk. The depiction is that of a cruel world, with acute loneliness. Such is the human condition.
Lahiri’s plots are concise and her style vivid. Her characters are real and sensitively wrought. I felt as though I would recognise them in the street, such is her eye for detail and her understanding of human nature.