Knopf. May 2021. 176p. ISBN 9780593318317. $23. F
Scholar, writer, professor, lover, friend: the first-person narrator of this slim but never slight volume deeply observes others while contemplating her own life over the course of four seasons. For 10 years she has been a fixture in her neighborhood, eating daily at the same trattoria, swimming at the same pool, and shopping in the same markets. She embraces solitude, taking comfort in routine, yet her musings overflow with life. Each vignette, only three or four pages long, feels like a beautifully wrapped gift, whether sharing her thoughts about her fearful, withholding mother or noting how much she resembles the father who introduced her to the joys of theater. She confesses to a mild flirtation with a friend’s husband and to an outsize envy of a younger woman who boldly pushes against the constraints that held her own generation in check. Then, having accepted a year long fellowship abroad, she prepares her apartment for sublet, stripping it of all outward traces of the self she has laid bare before us.
VERDICT The Pulitzer Prize–winning Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies) brilliantly elevates the quotidian to the sublime in this gorgeous stream-of-consciousness window into the interior life of an accomplished woman. Written in Italian and translated by Lahiri herself; with special appeal to readers of Rachel Cusk’s “Outline” trilogy.
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