Cover Image: Whereabouts

Whereabouts

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Member Reviews

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. ⁠
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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. 
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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. ⁠
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Very slowly, our heroine experiences an internal change that gives her courage to make some decisions that would alter her life.  ⁠
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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. ⁠
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Lahiri has written this in Italian and translated it herself into English, and it flows so naturally and beautifully, proving her mastery in language. ⁠
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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: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2099275238), 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 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3684038902

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 (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3855003171) 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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Set in Italy, this is another iteration of the relatively new form: the novella in flash. An Italian woman lives a solitary life after being an only child with a tempestuous relationship with her mother and a distant, passive father. 

There are a few strange phrases and idioms but I suspect they're American English rather than oddly-translated Italian. Jhumpa Lahiri has created this novella out of the main character's detailed observations of herself and of others,  as if she is at one remove from her own life, It's introspective and rather melancholy but the ending leaves open the possibility of change.

I enjoyed this book - it's short but packs a punch.
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I love Jhumpa Lahiri's writing and this book was no exception. Gorgeous prose that really swept you up. Loved it.
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Whereabouts is written like a diary with short chapters named after locations - The Bar, On The Train, In My Head etc. The narrator, a middle aged single woman, is not named but it feels as if you are included in her life through the narrative. Is she lonely? Does she feel she has underachieved? We don’t know, but we can make our own mind as the narrator tells us, ‘Solitude: it's become my trade. As it requires a certain discipline, it's a condition I try to perfect. And yet it plagues me, it weighs on me in spite of my knowing it so well.’  She is thoughtful, and suffers from what she calls a "dull slothfulness" that ALL of us can relate to. 
An interesting read which I would recommend, although as there is no ‘story’ as such, not for everyone.
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"I've never stayed still, I've always been moving, that's all I've ever been doing. Always waiting either to get somewhere or to come back. Or to escape."

This is a beautiful novella, written in various saynètes around various themes - at the supermarket, at the shop, at the nail salon, at the hotel. They tell of the solitude of an affluent middle-aged woman. Most revolve, one way or another, around ageing, being alone, mostly enjoying that solitude but not being completely sure. She is an observer - of the life around her, and of her own life. The tone is detached, the writing clean and precise, and read nearly like a diary of sorts; I first discovered Jhumpa Lahiri's writing with 'An Interpreter of Maladies' and she has evolved in terms of settings - going for a single woman in her late forties rather than young couples and younger women - but the writing remains the same, personal, unburdened, talking about transitions and moves. I really loved it.
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Written in Italian first and translated in English by Jhumpa Lahiri herself, this book, in a simple but beautiful way, shows the life of a woman in an unmentioned town. We live with her for a short amount of time, finding out her daily routine and learning about her past and her dreams for the future. 

I found it very enjoyable and the perfect read after a long day of working from home.
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Reading Whereabouts felt very much like opening the pages of a slightly seachanged Dorthe Nors. A woman both at home and out of place watches the ease and discomforts of others’ lives as if she herself is untouched and yet every day, every moment is an exercise in overcoming disappointment. She does not have the perfect job, or a partner. She has never lived anywhere else. She remains the loyal friend whose passion is somehow never fully engaged. She has freedom but does not use it.

The writing is elegant, quietly sharp. Its blade has slipped between your skin before you even notice.

For some reason, for me, the overwhelming image left by the book is a small shrine to a dead son, pressed against a wall half way up a hillside. A road snakes up past the path and it is along this path that she occasionally bumps into a man she finds attractive who is married to a friend of hers. A crackle of desire hums between them but is never explored. The shrine stands for all she has lost without ever having had it to begin with. She hovers, for me, at the side of that road, on that hill, near the wall, neither fully up or nor down, watching a potential lover walk past her for the sake of propriety, for fear of consequence.

It’s a beautiful, meditative piece of writing that so carefully expresses what it can be to be a woman of a certain age without her own family, still somehow unrooted to the world around her, living anywhereabouts. Out in April this year, put it in your wish list.
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So, this is my second try at Lahiri (after I DNF'd her [book:Interpreter of Maladies|5439]) and I have to conclude that she's not a writer for me. Her prose has the kind of exacting tone that I often like but this pared back set of vignettes almost feels like a parody of the voice of [author:Rachel Cusk|46051]'s Fay from her [book:Outline|21400742] trilogy, but without  the experimental innovation or the interest. This also reminded me of Deborah Levy but without the 'grab' factor or Levy's bursts of sardonic humour, with a bit of [author:Katie Kitamura|2808688]'s intense navel-gazing in [book:A Separation|30407998].

There are themes of rootlessness and loneliness, of alienation and lack of connection, and a trend towards movement after stasis as the text progresses but whether that's towards change or just another temporary resting place is unclear. There are mentions of a troubled mother-daughter relationship, of a broken love affair, of potential ungrabbed and unachieved. The unnamed narrator acknowledges that she keeps aloof from her work colleagues and that they might perceive her as 'prickly, unpleasant' but to acknowledge is enough for her, she's not interested in correcting or reaching out. 

The prose style is peaceful, restrained, moderate, unhurried - it never changes pace and is straightforward to read. I don't know - this just feels underwhelming to me, a sort of generic version of contemporary 'literary women's writing' that never engaged or connected with me - instantly forgettable, in my case, I'm afraid.
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Sadly, I did not finish reading this.  The chapters jump around too much, and I didn't find the story flowed.
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Both Lahiri's structure and tone are absolutely to my liking; the themes that links the vignettes and brings them all together in a whole are abandonment and melancholy. The introspective atmosphere of "Whereabouts" is amplified and better described in the italian title of the book “Dove mi trovo”, which word for word reads as “Where I find myself”.
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In this quietly powerful emotional novel Lahiri explores the experience of living life largely alone. The narrator, a woman in her 40s, has lived all her life in an unnamed city in Italy. With just one “significant” relationship of five years – one lived under illusions created by her false lover – she has no children and people around her will inevitably age and be lost or move on. She has to decide whether to stay with what she has and knows – her routines and securities - or move on to a different place with all that brings.
Through a series of deceptively simple vignettes Lahiri will depict and explore the emotional and practical aspects of a woman living alone and the nature of relationships she does have – both in their daily reality and their potentials not realised. Her narrator has a past so gradually the reader will be shown her family background and experiences and how they played into her life choices – and indeed still impact on her present way of life. One lives one’s life by the accumulating hours and days that one passes through, intermixed with one’s memories (or perhaps less often one’s dreams of other places and options).
Hints are given that the narrator is either a writer or diarist outwith her official working life and so that creates questions as to the nature of the tale being told. Is it an immediate recording, or is it something more created for a fictional (possibly non-existent) audience? But essentially solitude means (in the absence of the presence of others much of the time) that a person’s experiences and internal dialogues are carried out with oneself, alone and unchallenged, rarely decorated with another’s experiences or views.  Being alone can give time for deeper pondering on place, time, weather, atmosphere, conversations real or imagined, and one’s responses – all of this depth and complexity feeds into Lahiri’s descriptions.
Having said that, the narrator clearly points out that “memory” filtered through just “one” may not be complete even if correct. There is no one to challenge those “truths”. It may not be enough, and therefore the image, actions and reactions are embellished through later experience – through effectively “another” person in a slightly different place. Even deeply personal beliefs, memories and truths can be creative. A life of solitude can mirror of the work of the creative writer.
So this book can be seen as an important and challenging experience for those who live alone through choice, or maybe another not so obvious. But an interesting exploration on the routes to the deep creativity of writing and using words to speak to another - even if you do indeed live in solitude.
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A 3.5 star read. This wasn’t what I was expecting but I found the vignette style and the characters reflections and musings very intriguing. This story follows a female unnamed protagonist living in Italy who is reflecting on her life and her experiences. This story is constructed in the form of memories provided by the protagonist in a detached format. She tells the reader snippets of information or a series of anecdotes that help us build up a wider picture of the characters life.

This is not a plot heavy book, it’s more a character study. This is also more a novella length than a full novel. This was translated by the author from Italian. The author wrote this story in Italian originally a few years ago.

I think it’s a crisp and vibrant story with a similar style to popular fiction like Convenience Store Woman. I throughly enjoyed reading this story and found it was easy to fly through the pages as it’s super short.

Thanks to the author Jhumpa Lahiri, Bloomsbury and Netgalley for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Lahiri is one of the finest writers in the world and this book is as good as her best. Beautifully written and very profound.
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Not a stranger to Lahiri's work, I anticipated this would be a unique read - and I was not disappointed! Whereabouts is a story about a woman in a nameless city (most likely Rome) navigating and reflecting upon her life and the different relationships she has.  

The story is broken up into interesting vignettes named after locations. Often, I felt as though I was invited to learn the secrets of the protagonist's life whilst simultaneously knowing very little too. There is something very monotonous about Whereabouts, and I wondered if this was simply a reflection of the protagonist's pensive thoughts or this book getting lost in translation from the original Italian version. 

Nevertheless, Whereabouts is a gentle read that is easy to breeze through, leaving melancholy in its wake. 

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri 
I loved this short book! It is written like a diary with short chapters like In The Villa, At The Bar, On The Train, In My Head etc. The protagonist is not named but yet I felt like I was intruding in her life by reading this book. I was immersed in this solitary, lonely diary which feels like it’s going nowhere but at the same time is a very satisfying read.
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