Writers of ethnically-themed novels are often pegged as simply recording their family stories. However, by the time National Book Award finalist Julie Otsuka set out to capture her mother’s stories of “camp,” dementia had already stolen her once-clear memories.
Alaa al-Aswany’s novel The Yacoubian Building (2002, Arabic عمارة يعقوبيان) tells the story of a group of people loosely bound together by dint of living in the same crumbling building – a real place – in downtown Cairo.
On the surface, Train Dreams appears to be an historical novel; most of the story takes place during the first third of the twentieth century, and it includes real people and places. Yet as a narrative, the novel—or rather, novella (consisting of 116 short pages)—is fundamentally ahistorical.
Grahame Greene’s The Power and the Glory (1940), the story of a fugitive “whisky priest” in 1930s Mexico, is a short, pathos-laden novel about religious persecution after the Mexican Revolution. The Catholic Church at that time was under attack for its considerable wealth and social control.
Sacred Hunger, a novel by Barry Unsworth (which was awarded the 1992 Booker Prize) is the story of a single ship and a single voyage. The novel begins in 1752, in Liverpool, England. The Royal African Company, a chartered corporation created in the mid-17th-century with a monopoly on trade with the African coast, has just lost the last of its privileges, making the slave trade, for the first time, a “free trade” (all irony intended).
Much like its eponymous waterway, V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River meanders steadily through the dark reality of postcolonial Africa, alternately depicting minimalist beauty and frightening tension. Like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, subtle prose reveals the timelessness of the continent’s remote corners alongside human corruptibility.
The title of Carey’s best-seller is misleading. The True History of the Kelly Gang is not a “true history” at all, but rather an imagined autobiography of Australia’s greatest folk-hero, the bushranger Ned Kelly and his band of Irish-Australian outlaws.
Set during the nascent years of the Indian nationalist movement in the fictitious North Indian town of Chandrapore, E.M. Foster’s novel, A Passage to India, follows Adela Quested, a young English woman visiting India for the first time.
On November 11, 1938, Pearl Buck awoke to learn that she had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her first reaction—in Chinese—was “Wo bu xiangxin (我不相信)” or “I don’t believe it.” She added in English: “That’s ridiculous.
We are in the delivery room in Bombay, at midnight on August 14/15, 1947, the moment India and Pakistan are created as independent nations. Two children enter the world simultaneously, one Muslim, one Hindu, and their destinies will be determined by the timing of their birth.