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Roman Stories

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Member Reviews

Engrossing and unforgettable, the nine exquisitely rendered and keenly perceptive short stories in Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest collection, ROMAN STORIES, explore themes of otherness, especially the sacrifice, longing, vulnerability, and hope that immigrants (who could be from anywhere) bring to their new countries. Lahiri also considers what it’s like to be a traveler, a tourist, an outsider, in a temporary home. Longtime residents of Rome and its environs, new arrivals from other continents, and visitors to the city coexist in an often symbiotic, and sometimes brutal, dance.

Lahiri shows how social safety nets fail in the face of hostility; how chance encounters can lead to love or violence; how relationships can unravel and then be reknitted with new tenderness; and how Rome and its sites and monuments have different meanings depending on who’s looking. I was struck by the way that Lahiri shifts characters and perspectives to both illuminate a situation and to offer a new and nuanced understanding of a world. In some of the stories, characters who are writers observe—and are sometimes caught—in the act of observing. I found it extraordinary that the stories were written in Italian, and translated into such graceful and fluid prose by the author and Todd Portnowitz (translator of three of the stories).

Book clubs will find a wealth of topics to explore in Lahiri’s masterful new collection.

Thank you to Alfred A. Knopf, Jhumpa Lahiri, and NetGalley for access to this digital galley in exchange for an honest review.

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There’s a hazy feeling of ambivalence and uncertainty that run through the stories in this new collection from Jhumpa Lahiri. There are no identifying details — characters have no names and are only referred to as “the professor” or “L” or “the mother”. Some stories specifically mention immigration and in some the perceived foreignness of characters within their surroundings is only alluded to, but none of those countries of origin are named. These stories have different plots and subjects, but they share an overall sense of displacement and alienation.

This was my first foray into Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing. She originally wrote this stories in Italian and worked with editor Todd Portnowitz to translate them into English. The detail-less structure of the stories made it difficult for me personally to stay invested, but I found that after reading them a second time I came to appreciate the details more. I’ve never been to Rome so I don’t know how evocative they are of the city, but I did feel they captured different moods like the ever-changing nature of modernity on an old city as well as the quiet of a summer night in the countryside.

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Lahiri has written another gorgeous book of short stories.Written in her adopted Italian and translated.There is a thoughtful quiet feeling in her stories,she never fails to draw me in as
observe the people the lives she creates.A book I was totally immersed in.#netgalley #romanstories

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Jhumpa Lahiri is a wonder ! Pulitzer Prize winning author who then moved to Italy and learned Italian to hone her craft. These stories were written in her adopted language and translated to English. Nine short stories captuer Italy in a way you haven't experienced, including an perspective of a refugee. The stories are best described as quiet yet subversively emotional. Some will stick with you long after you finish this book
#RomanStories #juhumpalahiri #knopf #Pantheon

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I've been in love with Lahiri's work since I read the "Namesake" many years ago. As always, her stories are quiet, intelligent, well-crafted, and have the ability to pull one in and keep them reading (with interest) until the end. It's lovely book that I will read and read again.

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In 2012, Lahiri moved her family to Rome and began reading and writing in Italian. These stories were written in Italian before being translated into English. Some of them were translated by Lahiri herself and others by Todd Portnowitz.

I found it really cool that, after achieving so much success in English, Lahiri would challenge herself to write in her adopted language.

These stories were quiet and poignant. Three stars rather than more because I don’t think any of them will really stick with me for a while. That said, I could see myself coming back to this one in the future and revisiting the rating then.

Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday!

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Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite short story authors and this new collection certainly did not disappoint. My favorite story was The Boundary and I have actually gone back to read it a couple more times since I finished the collection. This one really hit me hard because it tackles the common human behavior of longing for things that you don't have and taking the things you do have for granted. Although I have not personally been in the same events the characters went through, I could find parallels in my life that forced me to empathize with each of them. Lahiri has a rare gift of making her stories relevant to every walk of reader and regardless of their plots I can always seem to find a way to relate to something. Pair that experience with exquisite writing and Italy as the backdrop and we have another treasured work from Lahiri. On a side note, the cover is absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to get a finished copy to display. From a distance it looks like a map of rivers or even a cluster of lakes, but when you look closely it is a view looking up from the ground through a copse of trees. It is such a magical image and I would love to be transported to that exact spot right now!

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I did not love this.

Admittedly I have not read a lot of Lahiri's work, but this felt bizarrely distant and out of character. From what I know of her other writing, that is not the normal experience. I also discovered that this was written in Italian, which I don't know why this is done, if she just does it because she wanted to learn Italian and finally feels adept enough of an Italian speaker to be able to write books in the language, but whatever it was, I have to assume that there will always be something lost in the translation. There was an odd formality to the writing that just put me off

There was something about the writing here that just felt oddly clunky. The characters were not people. but rather named for their traits or roles, and I felt like referring to them in such a manner sorta trivialized them, and distanced them. They somehow felt less like real people with real emotions and felt more like objects. Which i don't know, that could have been the point, but to me it kept me from becoming emotionally invested in the story, which for me is already difficult to do with short stories. .

I did enjoy the slice-of-life feeling that some of the stories had, it was about the normal goings on and happenings in a person's life, but the city Rome did not loom as largely as I felt it should. There were some bits of details that I felt were a tad bit glossed over, rather than explored or told in a more honest way. I appreciated the fact that Lahiri clearly intended to show some of the bigotry that is common among Italians, but I felt it was minimized more than it should be and would have liked to have had a more honest depiction of what it is like being a foreigner in Italy.

Lahiri's strong point has always been her writing (IMO) but with the translation I really felt that a lot of that was lost. There wasn't enough here to make me feel connected. The characters were experiencing these large, consuming feelings and yet I did not feel the intensity as I should have. Sadly this was just a 2,5 star for me.

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I'm DNFing this but it's a case of me and not the book. I have a hard time with short stories but thought this one would be an exception because I love Lahiri's writing. I was wrong.

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Jhumpa Lahiri is back in fine form with a collection of melancholic stories set in Rome. Almost all the stories in this collection deal with immigrant experiences, although the protagonists remain unnamed. This artistic choice occasionally adds a cold, clinical precision to the stories. However, a few stories are exceptionally well-written and evoke powerful emotions. In particular, "The Steps" stands out as the best among them. Overall, it is definitely worth reading, although it doesn't quite reach the same heights as her earlier work, such as "Unaccustomed Earth."

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Unreadable. Lahiri's Roman Stories offers nothing like her previous work. Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth are triumphs -- I cared about those characters and was deeply interested in their lives. Here, though, I labored trying to get past stories where nothing happen, I tried to care about unnamed characters who have no charm, who offer up no reason for me to feel anything. Maybe it's because this work is a work in translation? Maybe. I know, though, that it's a shame I don't get excited anymore when I see Lahiri is releasing a new book.

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Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors, and "Roman Stories" did not disappoint. Back, after the 2018 novel "Whereabouts," to the short story form that won her the Pulitzer Prize, Lahiri once again delivers exquisitely yet plainly written stories that somehow manage to be specific to a place, in this case her adopted city of Rome, and yet feel universal in their emotions and insights into human nature.

The collection begins with "The Boundary," narrated by a 15-year-old daughter of a holiday cottage caretaker, whose fascination with the seemingly ideal family life of the current renters contrasts with her own family's painful immigrant struggles. Otherness and alienation is, in fact, a major theme of the collection; in the devastating "Well-Lit House," an immigrant husband's dream of a happy family life with his wife and children in a new home is eroded by the inexorable creep of xenophobia and intolerance, and in "The Delivery," a young immigrant woman on a simple errand falls victim to casual racial violence. Even Lahiri's non-immigrant characters are alienated and isolated by their circumstances: a husband whose impulsive action at a party results in a small but undeniable estrangement from his wife in "P's Party," or a long-married couple whose Roman holiday can't fill the void an earlier tragedy has left in their lives. The collection's centerpiece story, "The Steps," looks at how one city staircase can have multiple meanings and associations to those who encounter it every day, from a young schoolgirl who longs for the easy intimacy of the classmates who congregate there to two American brothers who remember a tumultuous year in a childhood house nearby. And throughout all the pieces, the city of Rome--with its heat, its chaotic rush, its ancient beauty and present unsettledness--looms in the background. I was almost hypnotically drawn into these stories, inexorably pulled from one to the next. The fact that Lahiri originally wrote them in Italian, and then translated most of them to English herself, adds another dimension to her stellar achievement here. Thoroughly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and to Alfred A. Knopf for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.

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Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest collection of short stories, Roman Stories, is a masterful exploration of life in the city of Rome. The stories are each uniquely crafted, and while the characters and plots vary greatly, the city itself remains the central character throughout.

Lahiri’s writing is exquisite, and her use of the Italian language adds an additional layer of depth and beauty to the stories. The characters are complex and multifaceted, and Lahiri skillfully navigates the themes of identity, culture, and belonging that are at the heart of each tale.

Overall, Roman Stories is a beautifully written and thought-provoking collection of stories that will stay with readers long after they have finished reading. Jhumpa Lahiri continues to be a master of the short story form, and this collection is yet another testament to her talent and skill as a writer. Highly recommended for fans of Lahiri’s work, as well as anyone looking for engaging and insightful stories about life in one of the world’s great cities.

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Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer-prize winning American author, decided as an adult to become fluent in Italian and change career directions by translating Italian and beginning to write in Italian herself. “Roman Stories” is a collection of short stories (pub date 10 Oct 2023) which she originally wrote in Italian and then translated into English (along with some help by Todd Portnowitz). The common theme running through them is the plight of the immigrant in Italy, the otherness they feel, and daily aggressions they face.

Perhaps if I had read all the stories in one sitting I would have been able to see more connections: I was expecting that something big would be revealed, showing how they all were connected, but I didn’t find this. Maybe it was there and I missed it, or maybe I shouldn’t have had such expectations. Maybe my lack of knowledge of Italian literature hampered me from enjoying this as much as I otherwise would. Some of the stories ended with a gut-punch, and were so moving and actually shocking. Others just seemed to be about random people living or visiting a city and I had difficulty connecting to them, since they were nameless and could easily have been interchanged from one story to the next. I did not feel that Rome was really a character in most of the stories; at times it could almost have been any large city anywhere.

Despite these criticisms, I do recommend this collection, because the majority of the stories are compelling and thought-provoking. I also live in a large city with many immigrants and I appreciate being transported by literature into their world, so that my heart and eyes will be opened to their reality.
Thank you NetGalley and Knopf.

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