Whereabouts is a short novel, around 150 pages, made up of brief chapters from the perspective of an unnamed narrator. Our protagonist is a woman whom we know very little about besides that she is in her mid-forties, lives alone, and is a university lecturer. We also know that she lives in an unnamed city, somewhere in Italy, and we follow her throughout various locations - on the street, in the office, at the Trattoria, to name a few.
I think the main selling point here is in Lahiri’s brilliant writing. The novel was actually written in Italian and then translated by the author herself for publication in English. Each chapter plays out like an episode - the whole time we are in the narrator’s present day while she recalls moments with previous lovers, friends, and her parents, all of whom have played a part in her decision to live in solitude.
Reading this book will force you to slow down, take a breath, and savour the little things. I read a Guardian review of this book and the author of that article defined Lahiri’s style perfectly: “Whereabouts is a novel in vignettes, each chapter a postcard from an everyday landmark” which I just thought was a really lovely description of this book. Lahiri has an ability to transform the mundane and uneventful into poetry. She could be describing the most ordinary occurrence and it would literally sound like a once in a lifetime experience.
I think if I had to describe to someone what my literary taste was with only one book, this would be my pick. The only criticism I have for Whereabouts is that I wish it went on for longer but, then again, that isn’t much of a complaint. I adored this book and believe it would appeal to most readers - I especially recommend picking this one up if you’re in the mood for some literary fiction!