Cover Image: Whereabouts


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Whereabouts is honest, profound , thought-provoking and an absolute joy to read, One that you will become so engrossed with, you will read it one or two sittings.
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I was going to call this a novel, but really it's a series of vignettes as we ride along in the inner monologue of a 40-something woman whilst she walks through her city, and her life.  The city is unnamed, but something (maybe a description, maybe a feeling) made me assume it is Rome.  Lahiri wrote this in Italian, and has translated it into English herself.  I was so happy at that, as although I love translated works, I'm always unsure of how true to the author's original intentions the translated words are. 

The consistent theme in this book is that of solitude vs loneliness.  Our narrator lives alone, has been single since a bad breakup many years before, has no children or siblings, her father has passed away and her mother lives some distance from her.  She has friends, and a career, but her life is mainly lived solo.  At times this makes her feel free, but more often there is melancholy in her mood and thoughts.  She ruminates about her childhood, her place in the world, and what others who are married seem to have that she doesn't.  She is complex, and incredibly interesting, though at times I didn't always like her.  But granted with Lahiri's prose as her way of seeing the world, she is someone I could have spent even more time with, as the writing in this book is so rich and insightful.

This is my third Lahiri book, and whilst I don't think it reaches the perfection of Interpreter of Maladies, I did enjoy it slightly more than The Namesake.  It's hard to compare the three, as they are all so very different, so that's just a gut reaction. But I felt like this book drew me in, held my attention and really captured a mood.
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A collection of fond observations describing the author's thoughts on her home town, love, life, family the street life she sees every day.  A gentle walk through her personal memories. Simply told, simply written "Whereabouts" makes for a relaxing read.
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I am a huge fan of Jhumpha Lahiri’s novels. She is an exceptional writer for her penetrating observation and the beauty of her stories. Whereabouts was something very different to her usual novels. This is the story of a woman - do we ever know her name? - living alone in a city. The novel comprises a series of vignettes set at various points of the city. As always, Lahiri’s observation and writing is extraordinary. Her sentences are taut with meaning, pictorial almost photographic. This is a story of a life, day by day, the minutia, the breath and flow of each day. Interactions and connections with other people. This is a slim book but it is dense in a story which is only partly told, loaded with stories that we must unfold ourselves. I think that this is book to read again and again. This novel is not for those who want action or drama, it is one for those who want to see the colour, smell the rain, and step into another’s shoes and see through their eyes how life is lived, how it is felt. With thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for a digital copy of this book.
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Whereabouts is a charming collection of short stories following the life of an unnamed woman as she goes about a life of relative solitariness in a small Italian town. Despite her 'aloneness' the narrator's life is rife with tender observations and lyrical musings on her existence. Lahiri's focus is on the everyday events that any reader can relate to; a train journey to visit old friends, a christening party, trips to the shops.; but they are delivered with such richness that just a snippet is sufficient to keep the reader hooked.
Perfect escapism.
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Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors and I jumped up and down when I got an opportunity to review her new book. 
As it was translated from Italian to English (by herself) this was somewhat different. A novella length book consisting of vignettes of everyday moments of a woman in her 40s, living in an Italian city. 
Overall it had quite a melancholic tone, which was extremely well done., but still moments of pure joy come through as well. I would have loved the book to go just a bit deeper in each of the vignettes. 
Lahiri can really show how everyday moments and places can be special - and that is what is especially prevalent during this pandemic - you start noticing and enjoying the little things. If you didn't before, you will after reading this book. 
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We follow a middle-aged, solemn woman through an unnamed, ‘run-down’ city. She takes us in short bursts of observative descriptions through the places that belong to her routine days - the street she walks on, where she often encounters the man she didn’t marry, the cafe where she orders the same delicious sandwich three times a week, the bookstore she goes to, her teaching office, her balcony. 

Her balcony overlooks a piazza that is lively and full of people, in a neighbourhood that ‘is always spectacular.’ She knows the butcher, the baker, the barista (‘the person I confide all sorts of things to, though I couldn’t tell you why’), the other merchants, and these casual relationships sustain her both physically and emotionally. She is a sidewalk observer of the spectacle of life in the piazza, which provides her with enough human contact, food, and routine to help her through her solitude, which ‘became her trade’, ‘a condition she tries to perfect’.

Her life has not been a particularly happy one. She grew up with an oppressive mother and a stingy father, who loved theatre, and for her fifteenth birthday booked tickets to treat her, but got very sick the day before and ‘instead of going to see a play with him, I sat at his wake.’ Still, she inherited his love for the theatre and her social calendar is filled by bookings to see a play or an opera, which she always pays for in advance and wonders if she is going to make it to the performance, since her dad never did. 

Her orderly, spartan life is incapable of accommodating others for a long time. Even though she is a good friend and a kind person, she is too mature to submit to chafing her ego to compromise fitting with another one.

Still, it is not the solitude that asks for pity, but rather one that so often provides nutritious soil for other things to grow. It may not fit into the template of a typically desirable bourgeois lifestyle, but  so do not most of the things that deserve being noted.
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Whereabouts is Jhumpa Lahiri's own translation of her Italian language novel Dove Mi Trovo. It is a slim volume that reads almost like a diary. Written as a series of vignettes with titles like In the Supermarket, At The Swimming Pool., it follows a single woman in her forties as she lives her day to day life in Italy , and is a meditation on isolation, loneliness and growing older, which makes it sound dull and depressing, but in actual fact it is neither. The writing is gorgeous, incredibly evocative and showing the beauty in the everyday , from descriptions of fruits and vegetables in the marketplace to her observations of the people around her, locals and tourists alike. I loved that the book ended on a hopeful note, with the promise of more for our unnamed narrator.  
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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Whereabouts is the long-awaited new novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri in which she returns to the world map of literature in an Italian atmosphere. It's no easy feat to describe the plot as this is very much a character study about the narrator and protagonist’s life. It features an unnamed Italian woman in her 40s who is single and living a quiet, contemplative life in an unnamed Italian city, which she had moved to after itching to leave her birthplace. She's insecure, shy, disoriented, a stranger to herself. She is a daughter, a friend, a loner, a curious traveller and a lone observer. Working as a university employee guarantees her an unspectacular daily routine. The woman at the centre of the story oscillates between stillness and movement, between the search for identification with a place and the refusal, at the same time, to create permanent bonds. The city in which she lives, and which enchants her, is the living background of her days, almost a privileged interlocutor: the sidewalks around the house, the gardens, the bridges, the squares, the streets, the shops, the bars, the swimming pool that welcome her and the stations that occasionally take her further, to find her mother, immersed in a solitude without remedy after the premature death of her father. She meets old acquaintances, speaks to her regular barista, and meets an ex-lover. 

Every now and then she runs into a friend on the street, her friend's husband, and then she thinks bittersweet, but resigned, of what could have been. Over the course of a year and in the succession of the seasons, the woman will come to an "awakening", on a day of sea and full sun that will make her feel the warmth of life, of blood. And she will make a decision that surprises even herself. Told in vignettes, some only a few pages long, each explores the woman’s observations in various different setting such as ”On the Sidewalk” and ”By the Sea”. Every season she reveals more of who she is, where she came from, what she really longs for. In the meantime, she's thinking about what you can really know about someone - even yourself. Awe and exuberance, rootedness and strangeness, Whereabouts depicts the life of an observer through atmospheric snapshots and packs a poignant punch within its short 150 pages. It's a deeply introspective, melancholy story of self-chosen loneliness and Lahiri, known for her finest powers of observation and precision in depicting figures, creates the thoughtful mood of a woman who is at a turning point in her life and whose fate is dear to you. Written in suggestive, lucid prose with a great pull and an airy feel to it. A masterpiece of subtlety and nuance from an immensely talented writer. Highly recommended.
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Have you ever felt intimidated by an author's work? I have read so many amazing things about Jhumpa Lahiri's books and always felt that I would find reading her work difficult to navigate. After reading 'Whereabouts', I can honestly say that I was very wrong to have held that opinion. 'Whereabouts' is her new novella which will be published on the 4th of May by Bloomsbury and I was surprised how easily I could delve into Lahiri’s writing and the themes she presents to the reader.

The book focuses on following an unnamed middle-aged single woman who talks about her experiences of living a life of solitude in an Italian city. We follow her as she visits everyday innocuous places such as the sidewalk, street, the trattoria, the balcony amongst other locations- and yet these sites trigger strong feelings, emotions, and recollections for the protagonist. 

The book was written in Italian originally and then translated by the author into English and I would like to read the Italian version as there are always phrases and sentiments that don’t easily translate from one language to another. It would be interesting to see if it would alter a reading of any of the short chapters in the book.

Lahiri’s writing is perfectly measured and presents the reader with a sense of calm, mirroring the protagonist’s cool and at times, detached discussion of some very powerful issues in her life. Her resentment of her mother is a strong theme running throughout the book, along with the deep sense of isolation and loneliness that she experiences every day even though she is surrounded by people in the city. The woman’s observations of the world around her are fascinating and gives a sense that we are with her observing the activities of unsuspecting people that she encounters. Her obsession with watching others is at times a little creepy; she actively follows strangers on the streets to see what they do, as well as friends. 

Her behaviour, mannerisms, and way of existing in this bustling space is a wonderful exploration by Lahiri of loneliness and melancholy. It was hard to read some of the passages as the author brings the rawest of emotions out of her main character and presents her thoughts unfiltered to the reader.

A fascinating examination of the human condition by Lahiri who captures a great depth of feeling in her words. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Jhumpa Lahiri and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with an ARC in return for my honest review.
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In Whereabouts, we follow a woman through a period of her life in the city where she's always lived in Italy. It's a short book, formed by a series of mostly very short vignettes of that period.

It's a very descriptive book, in which nothing happens. You're just 'people-watching' with her throughout these snippets.

It's well written, but I didn't find it particularly interesting. You don't learn much about the main character, and the things that she observes are pretty much the same ones you would in a supermarket, coffee shop, etc.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc for a free ARC of this book.
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This was sadly not a book for me though I appreciate being given the chance to read it. The story jumped around and I felt lacked depth was boring and I did not want to continue reading it. Perhaps something was lost in translation.
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Whereabouts is beautifully written, the succint chapters give you insight to the thoughts, fears, past and future of an unknown women in an unknown Italian city and despite the unknown you feel you know this woman.
Jhumpa Lahiris way with such few words is very clever, especially as she originally wrote the story in Italian and the translated it herself losing none of the power of the story.

A truly lovely read.

I was given a copy of Whereabouts by NetGalley and the publishers in return for an unbiased review.
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Sadly Whereabouts has been a disappointment. Lahiri's rich writing is missing here, and without it this short story is dull and forgettable. 

Many thanks for the opportunity to read it.
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I have wanted to read something by Lahiri for a while so when the opportunity presented itself to read this via NetGalley, I was rather keen.
I must say that I rather devoured this book.  It is a poignant description of a woman's life.  I was impressed by the depth of observation that Lahiri uses.  Having lived in Italy myself there were many anecdotes that were of interest. In particular one that appealed was her commenting on a stationer's shop.
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I was familiar with Jhumpa Lahiri's work as a translator, but not as an author. Keen as I was to explore her books, I'm glad I started with this upcoming release, because I'm now ready to devour everything else she's written. ⁠
Whereabouts is defined as a novel, although it's written in short vignettes. Only half way through did I start picking up on clues from previous "chapters". It's a slow burner and an extremely character-driven book. Rather than a story with beginning, middle and end, Whereabouts traces a mood and a subtle emotional shift in the protagonist. 
It's about a middle aged woman in an unnamed Italian town, who's never lived anywhere else. She's a professor who lives alone, sometimes battling loneliness and other times indulgently enjoying her freedom. We trace her movements through the city, follow her in her favourite shops, watch her swim, listen to her thoughts while she attends a friend's dinner party, feel her crush on her married friend, and relive her vulnerability while she's attending to her ageing mother with whom she's never had a good relationship. ⁠
Very slowly, our heroine experiences an internal change that gives her courage to make some decisions that would alter her life.  ⁠
Reading this felt meditative, and despite an abiding  melancholy presence, it brought me some well-needed rush of feeling grounded. Lahiri's writing is poetic and observant, and her talent shines in the sparse prose of this thin volume. ⁠
Lahiri has written this in Italian and translated it herself into English, and it flows so naturally and beautifully, proving her mastery in language. ⁠
Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and Net Galley for my advanced digital copy.
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Whereabouts is a series of vignettes in the life of a single forty-something academic woman, living in an unnamed city in Italy.  The narrator tells us her thoughts and, although my copy of the book was in English, I could feel the ghost of the original Italian text behind the words.  She potters around town, going to dinner parties and family celebrations, spending time with her friends and on her own.

The atmosphere of the book is rather melancholy and lonely, but never self-pitying.  I enjoyed spending time with the narrator and missed her company when I finished the book.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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I wasn’t sure where to start with reviewing this very short book that the, Pulitzer Prize-winning prize winning, author translated from her original Italian language version into English.  I saw another reviewer translate the Italian title not to ‘Whereabouts’ but to ‘Where I Find Myself’ and this seemed to sum-up the book far better.
There’s no driving story to this novel, but instead it’s a series of vignettes of glimpses of a middle aged woman’s solitary life.  We see her with friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers but all of these interactions, apart from a shared lift journey at conference,provide her with little satisfaction.

It’s quite touching and melancholic, the push and pull of wanting freedom and time alone, whilst also a sense of loneliness and otherness against a quiet longing for a real connection that could meet both sides of the protagonist’s personality. 
The writing is stunning, it’s like a form of poetry in prose, but as it lacked a driving force, and though I did enjoy reading it, I had no real motivation to read more of it. 
Thank you to @bloomsburypublishing for gifting me this advance ebook arc.
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Hopefully I won’t have to write too many more reviews where I say how much the book made me miss the outside world, but Whereabouts did. Written first in Italian, and then translated into English by the author, it follows a first-person narrator, who lives alone in Italy, through a series of places - work, a café, a swimming pool - that she has a connection to, and the people that she meets and observes. One chapter ‘At the crypt’ is written in second person to the protagonist’s father, and answers a lot of lingering questions about why she is the way that she is, although much is still left unsaid.
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Whereabouts is translated by Jhumpra Lahiri from her own Italian language Dove mi trovo which predates the English, and which will make this eligible for the 20202 International Booker Prize.

Her previous three novels which I've read - The Namesake (2003), Unaccustomed Earth (2008) and The Lowland (2013) were all written in English although I have also read her translation of Domenico Starnone's Lacci as Ties (my review:, a book it's difficult not to see as a response to Elena Ferrante's I giorni dell'abbandono, translated as The Days of Abandonment by Ann Goldstein.

Lahiri did publish a previous Italian language non-fiction piece, In altre parole in 2015, describing her love affair with the Italian language, which was translated into English by the same Ann Goldstein.

As my brother, aka Gumble's Yard, points out in his review of Whereabouts, for a self-translated novel there are some odd translation choices, and it's difficult to see that the process of writing in one language and translating back to another has added much to the reader's experience.  See

The novel itself is a series of vignettes, observations, written by a woman in her late 40s living in a city (presumably in Italy).   She is oddly distant from those around her, enjoying it seems being surrounded by people, but without wanting any intimacy or real lasting connection with them.  Something expressed neatly in one vignette:

"In Bed

This evening as I read in bed I hear the roar of cars that speed down the road beneath my apartment. And the fact of their passing makes me aware of my own stillness. I can only fall asleep when I hear them. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, always at the same time, it’s the absolute silence that interrupts my sleep. That’s the hour when there’s not a car on the road, when no one needs to get anywhere. My sleep grows lighter and lighter and then it abandons me entirely. I wait until someone, anyone, turns up on the road. The thoughts that come to roost in my head in those moments are always the gloomiest, also the most precise. That silence, combined with the black sky, takes hold over me until the first light returns and dispels those thoughts, until I hear the presence of lives passing by along the road below me."

As Roman Clodia's review ( points out the effect is rather like a lesser version of Rachel Cusk's Faye from her trilogy, and the novel felt oddly unsatisfying although it came together more powerfully at the end, as the narrator looks to leave the city, and it also becomes clear how her personality is a result of her father and mother's respective temperaments and their troubled family relationship.

As with the other three novels of the author I've read, 3 stars

Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC.
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