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FICTION

Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate) By Hilary Mantel

This sequel to Wolf Hall opens in 1535, when Thomas Cromwell, the protagonist of Mantelís trilogy, is 50 years old. He is the master manipulator who plots the fall of Anne Boleyn and his own rise as a lord. Mantelís command over detail and her evocation of atmosphere are her real strengths.

Death comes to Pemberley (Faber) By P.D. James

A surprise package both for Jane Austen devotees and James fans. James gives her readers a strong echo of Austenís voice, without overdoing the mimicry. However, we miss the emergence of an original detective brain.

Between Clay and Dust (Aleph) By Musharraf Ali Farooqi

A story about vanishing worlds, of the akhara and the kotha, narrated with great sensitivity. Devoid of any literary conceit, it is moving and a little disturbing.

in my book

One of the best books I read this year was David Leavitt’s The Indian Clerk, about the genius mathematician S. Ramanujan’s stay in England. The story is told from the point of view of one of his chief mentors, G.H. Hardy, a Cambridge don. The other book I enjoyed tangling with was Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton: a particularly tricky piece of meat in which Rushdie’s egomania and mean sniping interfere with the most succulent, beautifully flavourful flesh.
Ruchir Joshi

The Violin of Auschwitz (Corsair) By Maria ņngels Anglada

Haunting in its poignancy, this little novel is about one manís desperate attempt to cling to the only craft he knows while all around him things fall apart. Also about the redemptive powers of music.

Skios (Faber) By Michael Frayn

Shows Fraynís genius for contrivance and coincidence. It is very visual, almost film-like, in its form. The story manipulates the characters, and not the other way round.

The Dream of the Celt (Faber) By Mario Vargas Llosa

The fruit of years of research into the life of the Irish nationalist, Roger Casement. Joseph Conrad and the human-rights journalist, Edmund Morel, feature here as characters who bear the brunt of the ambivalence of Casementís politics and life.

Silent House (Penguin) By Orhan Pamuk

The confusions, somersaults, over-determinations and perceptions of history form the storyís substance. Pamuk captures the contrasting timelines of the past and the present by counterposing his charactersí internal monologues with their conversations.

The Fall of the Stone City (Canongate) By Ismail Kadare

Action takes places somewhere between the fourth and the fifth decades of the 20th century. The Italians have fled and Germany is moving in when Kadare describes the incidents that take place in GjirokastŽr, the city of stone in the bookís title. The city is a reflection of the Albanian psyche, one of divided opinions and quiet acquiescence.

in my book

Katherine Boo’s study of a Mumbai slum, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, is a superb combination of reporting and imaginative writing. I can’t think of another book that gives such a rich insight into the lives of India’s urban poor. In Now All Roads Lead to France, Matthew Hollis recounts the last five years in the life of the English poet, Edward Thomas, and his friendship with Robert Frost. Hollis writes engagingly about nationalism and literature.
Ian Jack

History of a Pleasure Seeker (Phoenix) By Richard Mason

Set in early 20th-century Amsterdam, the novel documents the progress of the rake, Piet Barol, the son of a university clerk eager to rise above his station. Mischievous and artful.

1Q84 (Harvill Secker) By Haruki Murakami

Promising speculations on appearance and reality, destiny and free will, art and the morals, love and death. A celebration of love as the panacea for all evils which torture humankind. Has a glitzy post-modernist feel.