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Page Turners of 2021: Fiction

The Telegraph lists fiction titles that resonated most with us this year
Representational image.
Representational image.

The Telegraph   |   Published 31.12.21, 02:07 AM

Klara and the Sun 
Kazuo Ishiguro

“Klara and the Sun” — Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since he won the Nobel Prize in literature — is an inquiry into the uniqueness of the human heart. Is it beyond the reach of technology, the harbinger of mankind’s destruction? Ishiguro’s answer is as disturbing as it is intense.


The Promise
By Damon Galgut,

An unfulfilled promise turns into a curse in this political allegory, which won the 2021 Booker Prize. The book examines race, rights and identity while packing in three decades of South African socio-political history in the background.

Red Pill
By Hari Kunzru,

A writer in Germany is unwittingly drawn into the world of alt-Right ideologues in this bleak, but compelling, story about the psychosexual roots of the toxic man-cult that is currently destroying the world.

The Sweetness of Water
By Nathan Harris,

This lyrical novel interweaves the personal and the political, presenting a perspective largely overlooked by the traditional renderings of the American Civil War and breathing new life into a period whose stories have grown stale with overtelling.

The Paris Library 
By Janet Skeslien Charles,
Two Roads

The book is a love letter to Paris and an ode to the power of books and the beauty of intergenerational friendship, with the American Library in Paris and the French Resistance at its heart.

Little Eyes
By Samanta Schweblin,

Samanta Schweblin examines the banality of the digital presence in our lives and the casual acceptance of anonymous, yet personalized, surveillance in this unredeemed world.

Before She Sleeps
By Bina Shah,

A gripping, feminist, post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel about an underground community of renegade women who survive in a secret sanctuary and defy patriarchal control, finding strength and unity in their mutual camaraderie.

No One is Talking About This
By Patricia Lockwood,

A literary attempt to reckon with the damage done to a creative mind by years of excessive exposure to the internet that examines efforts to reveal the endless absurdity of online life.

Whereabouts: A Novel
By Jhumpa Lahiri,
Hamish Hamilton

Unfolding over roughly the span of a year and moving back and forth in time, this is a work that defies easy categorization. On one level, it can be read as a series of reflections on impermanence and mortality and, on another, as a harking back to the questions about space, time and identity that have haunted Jhumpa Lahiri’s oeuvre.

The Lost Apothecary
By Sarah Penner,

An enthralling tale of mystery, murder, trust and betrayal, the immersive plot flows skilfully from past to present, revealing the heartaches and lost dreams of the three women protagonists.

The Death of Vivek Oji
By Akwaeke Emezi,

Even though the death of the protagonist is the central plot, the melancholy permeating the novel does not weigh it down; rather it is a viscous, animated matrix in which the characters and their lives are suspended like luminous particles.

By Stephen Fry,
Michael Joseph

While remaining true to the original saga, the narrative style in this retelling is typically debonair, erudite and urbane. Stephen Fry infuses Homer’s version with elements of Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and several other Greek tragedies with his signature deadpan humour.

By Ali Smith,
Hamish Hamilton

Ali Smith’s fourth and final instalment of the seasonal quartet insists that the season of joy and exuberance is long gone and that we are living in an inferno of disease, carnage and mayhem marked by the climate crisis.

Love and Other Thought Experiments
By Sophie Ward,

Following in the tradition of philosophers like Voltaire, Sartre and Gaarder, Sophie Ward sets out to explore fundamental philosophical issues through a novel that makes us look afresh at life, living and death.

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing
By Sonia Faleiro,
Hamish Hamilton

The novel probes the weaponization of shame in India to force people, especially women, to adhere to the social order. The Good Girls is at its most poignant when it touches upon the unlived, curtailed lives of women.

The Lying Life of Adults
By Elena Ferrante,

This portrayal of lying as a creative act plays with the idea of self-image, holding up a mirror that reflects the reality beneath the masks that people put on for the world.

Invisible Ink: A Novel
By Patrick Modiano,

Escape, the duplicity of memory and oblivion are all essential to the act of living, which entails the periodic recreation of the self — suggests Patrick Modiano, the Nobel laureate.

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