Hello, readers! Welcome to another #5OnMyTBR update. The rule is relatively simple. I just have to pick five books from my to-be-read pile that fit the week’s theme.

This week’s theme: Something New

Something new. This week’s prompt is rather tricky. New can mean a lot of things. It can mean a new book or a writer who is new to me. It can also refer to a work of a particular genre that I have not explored previously It can also be a writer who is going to make his literary debut. For this week’s update, I have decided to feature works by writers whose works I have not read before. Happy reading!

5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook where you chose five books from your to-be-read pile that fit that week’s theme. If you’d like more info, head over to the announcement post!

Title: The Zenith
Author: Duong Thu Huong
Translator: Stephen B. Young and Hoa Pham Young
Publisher: Viking
Publishing Date: 2012
No. of Pages: 509

Synopsis: In her new novel, The Zenith, Duong Tho Huong offers an intimate, imagined account of the final months in the life of President Ho Chi Ming at an isolated mountain compound where he is imprisoned both physically and emotionally. He is grieving over the fate of his country, and caught up in memories of his late wife, Miss Xuan, who was brutally murdered by his political enemies in 1958. He was never allowed to make his marriage to her public, and the lives of the two children she bore him now hang by a thread.

Duong Thu Huong juxtaposes the tales of three other figures with that of Ho’s. one is of a woodcutter named Quang, a village elder whose life is a symbolic parallel to the president’s; both men, late in life, had married beautiful young wives and were betrayed by those close to them, and both lived under a dark fate, almost of their own making. Also told are the stories of Vu, the president’s loyal friend and close political ally, who is the adoptive father of his son, and of Hoang An, the brother-in-law of Miss Xuan, who is seeking to avenge her murder as well as that of his own wife.

Title: Someone Else’s Garden
Author: Dipika Rai
Publisher: Harper Press
Publishing Date: 2011
No. of Pages: 374

Synopsis: Will she recall that night? Or is it one of those too horrible times that her brain, taking pity on her soul, will choose to wipe out the memory? When she realizes what happened, she will recall it as the night she did her duty for her family, with no sense of shame or lingering fear. She will be matter-of-fact about it, resigned and, therefore, resilient.

Mamta, born low-caste and female in rural India against a backdrop of poverty and prejudice, is destined to be some man’s property. Her father says that bringing her up is only “tending someone else’s garden” until a husband is found for her. Eventually saved from becoming one of the nameless and faceless millions of rejected humanity, Mamta survives but at a terrible cost.

Lyrically told, this powerful story of a woman’ struggle to find acceptance compels us to question: Is life random? Or do we have a destiny?

Title: The Mandelbaum Gate
Author: Muriel Spark
Publisher: Macmillan and Company Limited
Publishing Date: 1965
No. of Pages: 330

Synopsis: In the British Consulate in Israel’s Jerusalem is Freddy Hamilton, given to the composition of formal verses, and long evasive letters to his aged mother ‘Dearest Ma…’. Kindly, celibate, hater of emotional scenes, but ultimately no sort of fool, he comes across a young Englishwoman on a visit and appoints himself her friend and protector. His fears for her safety are well-founded.

Barbara Vaughan has come to the divided city of Jerusalem, resounding in her own ambivalence. Half English ‘county’, half London Jewish, a Catholic convert, she is in pursuit of her fiancé, a Dead Sea scrolls archaeologist, and in flight from her oldest friend, a fellow-schoolmistress. She insists, in spite of Freddy’s warnings that her Jewish blood will endanger her life, on combining her holiday of hide-and seek with a pilgrimage to the Holy Places in Jordan’s Jerusalem.

The pilgrimage becomes one of flight, rout, disguise, pursuit, abduction, murder, espionage. A marvelous supporting cast brings out the best and worst in heroine and hero, as they are plunged from high comedy to low tragedy and back, on a switchback of suspense and drama.

Title: The Swan Thieves
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Publisher: Sphere
Publishing Date: 2010
No. of Pages: 607

Synopsis: Dr. Andrew Marlow has a perfectly ordered life, full of devotion to his work and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned artist Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery and becomes his patient.

As Oliver refuses to speak, Marlow’s only clue is the beautiful haunted woman Oliver paints obsessively day after day. Who is she, and what strange hold does she have over this tormented genius? Desperate to help, Marlow embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver, and to a dark story at the heart of French Impressionism – a tragedy that ripples out to touch present-day lives.

Title: Housekeeping
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publishing Date: 2001
No. of Pages: 219

Synopsis: A modern classic that “brilliantly portrays the impermanence of all things, especially beauty and happiness” (Paul Gray, Time), Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

Title: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McClain
Publisher: Virago Press
Publishing Date: 2015
No. of Pages: 369

Synopsis: As a child, Beryl Markham is brought to Kenya from Edwardian England by parents dreaming of a new life on an African farm; only two years later, her mother has abandoned the family and returned home. Neglected daughter, scourge of governesses, serial absconder from boarding school, by the age sixteen Beryl has been catapulted into a disastrous marriage, emerging from the wreckage vowing to take charge of her own history.

Circling the Sun takes the reader from the spectacular beauty of the Rift Valley to the immaculate lawns of Nairobi’s Muthaiga Club, from the brittle glamour of the gin-fuelled Happy Valley set to the loneliness of life as a scandalous divorcee. We encounter unforgettable characters: Karen Blixen, the writer-farmer-baroness; Denys Finch Hatton, irresistible big-game hunter; Kibii, the friend of her girlhood; and Lord Delamere, the man who gives her a chance to prove herself. And at the heart of the novel is Neryl: dazzling, contradictory, brave, passionate and reckless, whose great loss in love finally frees her to pursue her dreams of flight – and freedom.