It’s half way through 2015 and time for a literary stock take of my year so far. The bare statistics underpinning six months of reading pleasure are: total number of books – 55 books consisting of 50 novels, three works of non-fiction, one book of poetry and one play. The gender breakdown was 33 women writers and 22 male, drawn from 13 countries, with the largest number coming from Australia and Great Britain. Below are my ten favourite books (so far), not in any particular order as just selecting the ten was hard enough. One of Us by Asne Seirstad, Waiting for the Past by Les Murray and The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna deserve a special mention because they would have been on the list if the Top 10 was actually a Top13.
- Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw
- The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck
- River of Fire by Amitav Ghosh
- The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
- One Life by Kate Grenville
- The Bees by Laline Paull
- The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock
- Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Flood of Fire, the final part of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy is set between 1839 and 1841 and it would have been easy to have got the reader lost in the rich historical events that were unfolding during that period; the growing tensions between China and British-ruled India over the opium trade that eventually triggered war, the eventual seizure of Hong Kong and what Beijing saw as its humiliating defeat.
But Ghosh’s literary world is populated by such a gallery of diverse and vivid characters that it is they who capture the reader. Some will be remembered from his first two books, Sea of Poppies about opium production and River of Smoke about the opium ship Anahita travelling to Canton in China. However, while Flood of Fire provides continuity it is equally enthralling as a stand-alone book.
The story unfolds through the lives of three main characters: Zachary Reid,
Ten authors have been named on the long list for the Man Booker International Prize. It includes writers from six from countries which have never featured before. The ten authors on the list are: Cesar Aira (Argentina) Hoda Barakat (Lebanon) Maryse Conde (Guadeloupe) Mia Couto (Mozambique) Amitav Ghosh (India) Fanny Howe (USA) Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya) Laszlo Krasznahorkai (Hungary) Alain…