Happy 10th month of the year! We’re through to the last quarter of the year and in less than 100 days, we will all be welcoming a new year. But before the year ends, I hope you reap the fruits of all that you have worked hard for this past year. I hope you achieve what you have dreamed of and that you reach those stars you’ve been reaching for. I hope by the time the year ends, things will start returning to normal. Before we can move on to October, let me take a brief throwback to the month that was, at least in terms of book haul.
Without more ado, here are the books that are part of my September 2021 haul. With the number of books I managed to snag during the month, I am cutting it into two parts, starting with novels longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. It is just fitting because, following the announcement of the shortlist, September has evolved into a 2021 Booker Prize reading month. Without more ado, here is the first part of my September 2021 book haul. Happy reading!
Title: A Passage North
Author: Anuk Arudpragasam
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 287
Synopsis: A Passage North begins with a message from out of the blue: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died under unexpected circumstances – found at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email form Anjum, an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi, stirring old memories and desires from a world he left behind.
As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for Rani’s funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the inner-most reaches of a country. At once a powerful meditation on absence and longing, as well as an unsparing account of the legacy of Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war, this procession to a pyre “at the end of the earth” lays bare the imprints of an island’s past, the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek.
Written with precision and grace, Anuk Arudpragasam’s masterful new novel is an attempt to come to terms with life in the wake of devastation and a poignant memorial for those lost and those still living.
Title: Light Perpetual
Author: Francis Spufford
Publisher: Faber & Faber Limited
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 323
Synopsis: November 1944. A German rocket strikes London and five young lives are atomised in an instant.
November 1944. That rocked lands. A single second in time is altered and five young lives go on – to experience all the unimaginable changes of the twentieth century.
Because maybe there are always other futures. Other chances.
Light Perpetual is a story of the everyday, the miraculous and the everlasting. Ingenious and profound, full of warmth and beauty, it is a sweeping and intimate celebration of the gift of life.
Title: China Room
Author: Sunjeev Sahota
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 243
Synopsis: A breathtaking novel of love, oppression and the pursuit of freedom, China Room twines together the stories of a woman and a man separated by more than half a century but united by blood.
Mehar, a young bride in rural Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. It is 1929, and she and her sisters-in-law, married to three brothers in a single ceremony, spend their days hard at work on the family farm, sequestered from contact with the men. When Mehar develops a theory as to which of them is hers, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk.
Spiralling around Mehar’s story is that of a young man who in 1999 travels from England to the sun-scorched farm, by now deserted for decades. In enforced flight from the traumas of his adolescence – his experiences of addiction, racism and estrangement from the culture of his birth – he spends a summer in painful contemplation and recovery, finally gathering the strength to return home.
Inspired in part by the author’s family history, and told with courage, compassion and deep humanity, China Room is an astonishing feat of storytelling from one of our most exceptional novelists.
Title: Great Circle
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 589
Synopsis: An unforgettable, mesmerizing new novel form one of the most exuberantly gifted novelists of her generation, Great Circle ranges from Prohibition-era Montana to the wilds of Alaska to wartime London to modern Los Angeles in an epic tale of two extraordinary women whose fates collide across geographies and centuries.
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There – after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes – Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in the wealthy bootlegger Barclay Macqueen, who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the best of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny – circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, chafing at the claustrophobia of Hollywood and cult celebrity, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after getting fired from a romantic film franchise in the midst of scandal. Her immersion in the character of Marian unfolds alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s destinies – and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different places and times – intersect in astonishing ways. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is an astounding feat of storytelling and exhilarating tour de force.
Title: The Fortune Men
Author: Nadifa Mohamed
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 370
Synopsis: Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, sometime petty thief. He is a smooth-talker with an eye for a good game. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.
So, when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on Mahmood, he isn’t too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in s a country where, he thinks, justice is served. And at home his three little boys are waiting for him, as is Laura, fierce and full of love, ready to forgive his misbehaviour in a heartbeat if he can straighten up his act.
It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it dawns on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, he begins to realize that the truth may not be enough to save him.
Title: The Sweetness of Water
Author: Nathan Harris
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publishing Date: July 2021
No. of Pages: 357
Synopsis: A profound debut about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever.
In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry – freed by the Emancipation Proclamation – seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpecting friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.
Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussion on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.
With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.