From a new novel by Man Booker-winner Aravind Adiga to the final in a trilogy on life under Mao by Frank Dikötter, here’s Jemimah Steinfeld’s guide to this year’s hottest releases.
An intriguing title to match an intriguing plot, River of Ink by debut novelist Paul M.M. Cooper follows Asanka, a court poet in the ancient island kingdom of Lanka. In the midst of a war, Asanka is tasked with the translation of an epic Sanskrit poem by the new, tyrannical king, who believes it will instil a sense of loyalty in his subjects. However, through Asanka’s translation, the reverse occurs.
Selection Day is a coming-of-age story from Aravind Adiga, author of The White Tiger, which centres on a teenager in contemporary Mumbai. Manjunath Kumar knows a lot about himself – what he’s good at (cricket) and what he’s interested in (CSI). But at just aged 14, there’s still a lot more to learn and his older brother’s rival is just the one to aid in this discovery.
Already a bestseller in South Korea and now translated into English, Human Acts by emerging talent Han Kang explores the student uprising in 1980 South Korea, an event that was viciously suppressed and then silenced. Three storylines intertwine: one of a boy looking for his friend’s corpse; another of a consciousness searching for its abandoned body; and the final one of a country seeking its voice.
Already garnering praise from literary heavyweights including Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson, Mahajan’s novel takes the reader on a dark journey into a Delhi marketplace in 1996, where a bomb goes off killing two young boys and emotionally damaging a third. The book centres on the effects this act of terrorism has on both the victims and the perpetrators, creating something that is moving, relatable and heart-breaking all at once.
Information-packed and yet still intimate, One Child by journalist Mei Fong is a fascinating and at times shocking look at how modern China has been shaped by the One Child Policy. Fong travels across China to meet the people affected by the policy, ranging from those who have lost their only child and are too late to have another one to villages full of men who will likely never marry.
The Lady and the Generals picks up where Popham’s last acclaimed biography, The Lady and the Peacock, left off. That is in 2010 when Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released from years of house arrest. What followed was a rollercoaster ride for Aung San Suu Kyi, and indeed Myanmar, featuring reform and progress. However, just as the future started to look bright, other events occurred that darkened it. Popham explores all of this in vivid detail, fusing interviews with true stories.
Timed perfectly to coincide with the Cultural Revolution’s big anniversaries (50 years since its start; 40 years since its end), the powerful final volume of Dikötter’s prize-winning The People’s Trilogy looks at this chaotic decade in a new light. Behind the bloody purges that are typically associated with the period and the picture of complete conformity, Dikötter introduces ordinary villagers who undermined the planned economy and resurrected the market, and in so doing, undermined Chairman Mao himself.
Sunil Khilnani’s book answers the big question – what is India? – through looking at the lives of 50 great personalities who have shaped the world’s largest democracy. From grimy ports and slum temples to Ayurvedic call centres and Bollywood studios, Khilnani introduces the great personalities who have been crucial to the India story.
The queen of authentic Chinese cooking made easy is back this summer with another book that promises to tease the taste buds. Dunlop’s latest takes us to the Lower Yangtze region, which is known as a ‘Land of Fish and Rice’. Blending evocative writing with mouth-watering photography, Dunlop presents signature dishes from the region, alongside lesser-known. The bulk of ingredients are easily sourced in the UK, meaning you’ll be making Beggar’s chicken before the summer ends.