Monday, September 7, 2009

Interpreter of Maladies: an audio review

Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Narrated by Matilda Novak
HighBridge Audio
6 hours 19 minutes

I primarily listen to audiobooks when I'm alone in the car, but with sixteen year old twins learning to drive this summer, there has been very little of that! I listened to Interpreter of Maladies back in May, and hadn't even attempted to start another until a few days ago (Little Bee by Chris Cleave). However, I didn't want fall to begin without at least mentioning this book.

Interpreter of Maladies, published in 1999, is a collection of nine short stories that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. I chose to listen because it was offered in a 3-for-2 promotion at, and I was so taken with Lahiri's more recent collection, Unaccustomed Earth.

The stories are set in India or the US and, again, involve characters of Indian descent. Lahiri packs so much emotion and feeling into each story. In "A Temporary Matter", an especially poignant story, we observe a young couple whose marriage is disintegrating after the birth of a still born child.

"When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine" is told through they eyes of a young girl. It spotlights a Pakistani man in the US, a frequent dinner guest in her household, who watches a civil war unfold, night after night, on her living room television while his wife and seven daughters remain at home in Pakistan.

The title story, "Interpreter of Maladies", is set in India. Mr Kapasi works as a translator for a doctor who is unable speak the language of some of his patients. He supplements his income by acting as a driver for tourists. One day, he develops an 'interest' in a young American woman of Indian descent traveling with her husband and three children. As he imagines their relationship, she misunderstands his primary job and begins to confide her unhappiness to him. A very touching story...

The reader did a very good job in this production, however I did find some of the musical interludes annoying. Overall, I was impressed with Lahiri's writing and enjoyed listening to this collection. However, I liked Unaccustomed Earth even better.


  1. I had to stop listening to an audio book because of the music. It was awful besides being distracting.

  2. I plan to read this soon and also splurged (well, not really as it was a bargain) on Unaccustomed Earth! I have a feeling that Lahiri and I are really going to get along.

  3. I read The Namesake a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I don't read much modern stuff these days so hadn't sought out Lahiri's other books, but I shall definitely put this on my wishlist and get around to it sooner or later.

    I find audiobooks don't work for me. I thought they were a great idea as I'd be able to multitask but I tend to lose concentration as I have them on in the background while I'm doing something else and then I realise I haven't been listening and have to rewind. So I've given up on them now!

  4. On the rarest occasion I listen to audio short stories, but I don`t know if I could sustain attention for a whole novel. With a short story collection such as this, I could probably do it, but I`d need ample breaks in between. And yes, the music sounds very annoying-- not sure if I`d get past that. Such a fine line between a reading and a dramatic reenactment.

  5. I loved "Unaccustomed Earth", and shortly after I read it, my mom handed me "Interpreter of Maladies." Haven't read it yet, but your review makes me want to ... soon!

  6. The instructor for my "The Art of Reading" DVD course talked about one of the stories in here. I'm sure I'll be picking it up eventually.


  7. I've tried audios in the past and just never really enjoyed them. But I did read this book earlier this year and totally loved it!!

  8. Nise' - I can't figure out why they include music in some of the audios - it often seems to detract from the words!

    Paperback Reader - Can't wait to hear what you think of Lahiri. I have a feeling you'll be singing her praises!

    Rachel - I read The Namesake years ago, too, and think Lahiri may be even better at short stories! Audiobooks definitely aren't for everybody, but it did take me a few books to 'train' myself to listen.

    John Mutford - I wasn't sure I'd like short stories in the audio format, but it seemed to work well...except for that annoying music!

    Melissa - You're in for a treat. I just love her stories!

    Lezlie - There are some excellent stories in the collection. I think you'll really like it.

    Staci - Glad you liked this book, too. I think audiobooks take some time to get used to but, even then they just aren't for everyone. I started listening to them 6 or 7 years ago... at a time when I was driving a lot more than I have to now!

  9. Excellent review I liked this as well. The reader is also good in Unaccustommed Earth

  10. Diane - I loved Unaccustomed Earth! I wonder if she is working on more stories or another novel...

  11. Oh, I loved this book. One of the best short story collection I've read in a long time. But unfortunately, I didn't finish the last 2 stories in this book. I had been reading my cousin's copy, and I forgot to tell him to leave it for me to finish. I guess I'll borrow it some day again, and reread the whole thing.

  12. Hazra - I'm glad you loved this, too! Hope you get a chance to read the last two stories soon. Her newer collection, Unaccustomed Earth, was fabulous, too!

  13. I loved this collection, but I've yet to read Unaccustomed Earth - it sounds like I really must!

  14. Nymeth - You MUST read Unaccustomed was wonderful! I loved the title story. Part II of the book is three connected stories...could almost be considered a novella, I suppose.


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