The Telegraph
Friday , December 26 , 2014
 
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FICTION

THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER AND OTHER STORIES (Fourth Estate)
By Hilary Mantel

The author outraged her countrymen with the title story, about an assassination attempt on Britain’s former prime minister. Politically incorrect with aplomb, the other stories shock nicely too, with their gothic imagination and macabre humour. A perfect read to offset the debilitating sweetness of the festive season.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Random House)
By Neel Mukherjee

This one caused much excitement among the city’s readers when its Calcutta-born author was short-listed for the Booker this year. Mukherjee ultimately did not win the prize, but his book continues to inspire debates. Setting his novel in Calcutta of the Naxalite years, Mukherjee engages with habits and happenings that would speak eloquently to Calcuttans — a resistance to change, a certain fondness for decadence, and social upheavals that yet attempt to alter the lives of a people. If this does not sound quite extraordinary, Mukherjee’s prose certainly is. It approaches the level of poetry in its unaffected ease.

PASSION FLOWER: SEVEN STORIES OF DERANGEMENT (Aleph)
By Cyrus Mistry

There are demons in every shape in these short stories — loneliness, jealousy, grief, not to forget love. The unhinged and the sane, the ominous and the peaceful, the illusory and the real, wrestle each other with such intimacy that one is tempted to question the ways in which they are categorized.

A GOD IN EVERY STONE (Bloomsbury)
By Kamila Shamsie

" The reader is transported to the years between 1914 and 1930, when the world staggers out of the killing fields of Ypres only to head towards Auschwitz. With its characters trapped in war while stone gods prophesy peace, its landscapes changing from blood-drenched Ypres, moist London to sun-baked Peshawar, the novel creates a wholesome melody out of the dissonance of war. "

THE GOLDFINCH (Little, Brown)
By Donna Tartt

The Pulitzer-winner opens with a bomb blast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This sets the stage for the story, with its teeming world of alcoholics, drug peddlers and addicts, and the promise of redemption through art.

A HAPPY PLACE AND OTHER STORIES (HarperCollins)
By Vineetha Mokkil

A collection of short stories which leave much unsaid. Mokkil touches on recognizable emotions like love, longing, loss, trust, mistrust, envy, and so on, in individual stories, but these are not threads binding the collection together. If there is a leitmotif, it is city life, in all its complex formulations.

THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT (Fourth Estate)
By Amy Tan

Focuses on the life of courtesans in Shanghai in the early 20th century. As the daughter of immigrant Chinese parents brought up in America, Tan engages with the subject at a deeply personal level. The Valley of Amazement is as much about the life, loves and losses of Violet Minturn, the half-American, half-Chinese girl whose early years and later adventures form the novel’s plot, as about Tan’s own journey into the history of China and into lost secrets of her family.

MIRROR CITY (Viking)
By Chitrita Banerji

Explores the paradox of being at home in exile and of feeling exiled at home. The political turbulence of the years following Bangladesh’s independence matches the turmoil in the life of Uma, who also explores the meaning of freedom. Banerji’s first novel is as passionate and honest as its heroine.

AN OFFICER AND A SPY (Hutchinson)
By Robert Harris

A historical scandal is brought to life in a way that dissolves the lines between fiction and fact. Georges Picquart, an officer in the French army, strives to find the truth as he becomes convinced that the charges of treachery brought against the Jewish captain in the army, Alfred Dreyfus, are fabricated, and a result of prejudice.

SKYLIGHT (Harvill Secker)
By José Saramago

Admirers of the Nobel-Prize winner get a chance to savour his words again in this ‘new’ book published after his death. Written in the 1950s, the book concerns itself with themes — the stifling nature of bourgeois marriages, the tendency of people to live in bad faith, the dignity of simple labour — that would be familiar to readers of Saramago’s fiction. However, the treatment is different, making this a fresh work indeed.