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FICTION

Dear Life (Chatto & Windus) By Alice Munro

In this Nobel Prize winner’s signature style, the 14 short stories in this collection anatomize emotions, bringing out the excitement, and the banality, of life’s little events like falling in love, separation, marriage, infidelity, and the approach of old age. The final pieces in the book are, in Munro’s words, “not quite stories... I believe they are the first and last — and the closest — things I have to say about my own life”.

The Childhood of Jesus (Text Publishing) By J.M. Coetzee

Disturbing and strange, this novel prods the reader to grapple with the ungraspable: the real and the true in a universe of slip-sliding signs. Who is the little boy called David at the novel’s centre? The reader can never quite be sure if the title is a red herring or if the precisely imagined scenes involving the boy and his guardian, Simón, are a disquieting prefiguration of an ominous future.

The Testament of Mary (Viking) By Colm Tóibín

Mary, the mother of Jesus, tells her story. The resonating word, “testament”, in the title points to what Tóibín intends this novella to be — Mary’s will — in which she comes across as much the sorrowing mother as the woman whose relationship with the son of God was fraught with tension.

The Lowland (Random House) By Jhumpa Lahiri

Udayan, the young man with the Red Book, is killed by the police in a recreation of the fate suffered by several ardent idealists during the Naxalite era in Calcutta. His elder brother, Subhash, must carry on with the dogged ritual of living that Udayan had so recklessly rejected.

The Prisoner of Heaven (Phoenix) By Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is the third in the cycle of novels beginning with the much admired The Shadow of the Wind. Here again are all the elements of the neo-Gothic that Zafón has made his own — mysterious strangers, writers losing their mind, towers of terror, and suspense. Fascinating in its descriptions of Barcelona, this is a gripping thriller.

Sweet Tooth (Cape) By Ian McEwan

Set in Britain in 1972, this is about reading, spying and secret agents fighting over short stories. The title refers to an MI5 mission that covertly recruits journalists and writers whose works openly denounce communism. McEwan makes us reconsider the assumptions we make while reading a work of fiction.

Harvest (Picador) By Jim Crace

Full of beautiful English prose, Crace’s novel recreates with painstaking effortlessness the texture and feel of what it might have been like to live and grow and die and rot in another age of which there can be no unmediated memory today.

NW (Hamish Hamilton) By Zadie Smith

This is about the divergent adulthoods forged by four people who grew up at Caldwell in England. It is also about a terrible crime, the nature of trust, the reach of the past, and whether anybody controls their own life story.

Oleander Girl (Viking) By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The tussle between class and cultures that is so much a part of India’s social fabric is at the core of Divakaruni’s story which weaves in the Godhra riots with an intensely personal first-person narrative of a Bengali girl, Korobi.

The mirror of beauty (Penguin) By Shamsur Rahman Faruqi

The author packs in the entire history of a fading era — the last years of the Mughal empire — in the story of the celebrated beauty of the times, Wazir Khanam. The book upholds the opulent tradition of Urdu literature and poetry as a counterpoint to Western literature.

Maddaddam (Bloomsbury) By Margaret Atwood

The third part of the trilogy that started with Oryx and Crake, this again is Atwood’s brand of speculative fiction set in a future ravaged by inventive humans and salvaged by a few caring ones.