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Book Reviews

Your Reviews of Your Favourite Books

The Man From Beijing

The Man From Beijing

Henning Mankell

A master of the crime genre, Henning Mankell focuses his latest page-turner on a case that stretches across the globe and the centuries. The population of a town is slaughtered in a quite hamlet in northern Sweden and a judge in a distant town makes a family connection that leads her on a search for answers. In order to solve the riddle, her quest takes her through the archives of Chinese immigrants building the American railroads in 1860, through her own past as a student revolutionary, and all the way to Beijing.

The Tiger’s Wife

The Tiger’s Wife

Tea Obreht

The debut novel from Serbian/American writer Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife is brilliant work of storytelling. The novel follows a young doctor piecing together the circumstances of her grandfather’s death; the grandfather in his own curious upbringing and interactions with ‘the deathless man,’; the inhabitants of a small village in Yugoslavia who were visited by an escaped zoo tiger that changed their lives. A rich narrative full of fascinating characters in a setting that mixes the realities of war and the hardships of poverty with superstition, magic and the surreal, The Tiger’s Wife is one of the best books we’ve read. Ever. The Tiger’s Wife won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, making Obreht the youngest recipient of the prize.

Wolf Totem

Wolf Totem

Jiang Rong

REVIEWED BY JULIA XU Wolf Totem depicts the dying culture of the Mongols and the parallel extinction of the animal they believe to be sacred: the fierce and otherworldly wolf. What I liked about this book was that it depicted wolves from a totally new perspective. Unlike the bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, the author portrayed the intelligence, the caring, the determination and the spirit of this animal through the eyes of native Inner Mongolians. To tell the truth, I never thought that the characters of a wolf could be this impressive. Thanks to the organized logic structure and the vivid pictures presented, I felt as if I was personally on the scene of this nomadic world, breathing the fresh air, lying on the wet grass and hearing the howling of wolves in the distance. Among the sections, wolves using encircling tactic to hunt Mongolian gazelle left me the deepest impression because it showed me the power of the book. I was totally captivated and just could not stop until I had finished the last page of this wild yet rich adventure on the prairie. Of course, although the book brought me a lot of pleasure, Wolf Totem also led me to think about the problem of dying cultures. By following the downturn of the Mongolian culture, a civilization that I was very unfamiliar with, I found myself going from curiosity to amazement, and from amazement to heart-broken. By using contrast writing, Jiang Rong showed me a vanishing utopia caused by the indifference of the public, a fading lifestyle due to the ??development?? of the country. And yet, there was nothing I could do.

The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai

Winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction 2006

This stunning second novel from Desai (Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard) is set in mid-1980s India, on the cusp of the Nepalese movement for an independent state. Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, lives in Kalimpong, at the foot of the Himalayas, with his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and his cook. The makeshift family’s neighbors include a coterie of Anglophiles who might be savvy readers of V.S. Naipaul but who are, perhaps, less aware of how fragile their own social standing is – at least until a surge of unrest disturbs the region. Jemubhai, with his hunting rifles and English biscuits, becomes an obvious target. Besides threatening their very lives, the revolution also stymies the fledgling romance between 16-year-old Sai and her Nepalese tutor, Gyan. The cook’s son, Biju, meanwhile, lives miserably as an illegal alien in New York. All of these characters struggle with their cultural identity and the forces of modernization while trying to maintain their emotional connection to one another. In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a ‘better life’ when one person’s wealth means another’s poverty.