Naguib Mahfouz’s — Palace Walk *****

Naguib Mahfouz’s — Palace Walk *****

This is a glimpse into the life of a Muslim family living in Cairo during the early 1900s. While Al-Sayyid’s authoritarian rule over his family makes us aware of the restrictions placed on women, he also offers humour within the dynamics of the family.

This was the first volume of a Cairo trilogy, and to me, Palace Walk was the best of Mahfouz’s books.

Shyam Selvadurai’s — Funny boy *****

Shyam Selvadurai’s — Funny boy *****

Arjie is a young Tamil boy unsure of his identity in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. When racial riots break out in 1983 with the burning and killing of Tamils and their property, Arjie’s life is in danger.

Although this was Selvadrai’s debut novel, its tale has stayed with me more than any other of his more recent novels. To me it’s still his finest work.

Rabindranath Tagore’s — The wreck *****

Rabindranath Tagore’s — The wreck *****

Ramesh is in love with Hemnalini, but is forced into an arranged marriage. On his return journey from his wedding, a storm sinks the wedding party boats. When Ramesh comes to, he’s washed up on shore and discovers the only other survivor is dressed in red wedding regalia. He assumes its his wife whom he never set eyes on during the wedding.

Only after taking her into his house does he discover she is not the woman he married. And this is where the dilemma starts. He cannot disregard Kamala because she’ll be shunned in Indian society, but he is determined to marry the love of his life, Hemnalini.

Tagore, a prolific story teller of the 1900s, wrote well ahead of his time about the deprived status of Hindu women and the low value placed on their intelligence.

Nina Revoyr — Wingshooters *****

Nina Revoyr — Wingshooters *****

After Michelle’s Japanese mother leaves and returns to the U.S., her father takes her to the States in search of her mother. Soon she is left with her grandparents in a mid-west town where everyone is white. While her disappointment increases with the absence of her father, she discovers the joy of her grandfather’s love. Soon she is sent to school where she endures the bullying and harassment of everyone. When a negro substitute teacher comes to the school, Michelle discovers that although her grandfather is sympathetic to the bruises and black eye she suffers from other students, he is just as racist as the rest of the town. But what happens when he learns of the flaws of his best friend will change Michelle’s life forever.

A powerful and important story that grabbed me from the first page to the last.

Tan Than Eng’s — The garden of evening mist *****

Tan Than Eng’s — The garden of evening mist *****

Yun Ling is the only survivor from a hidden Japanese prison camp in Malaya’s highlands during the second world war. Trying to swallow her hatred of the Japanese, she becomes an apprentice to the skilled Aritomo to learn the techniques of creating a Japanese garden she wishes to dedicate to the sister she lost in the prison camp. But there are secrets she wants to uncover — where was the prison camp she was locked up in for over three years? Where are her sister’s bones? Why has Aritomo never returned to Japan?

This is an insight into Malay before independence and its struggles to overcome WWII and the internal fighting after the war as well as principles in designing a Japanese garden.

New Beginnings edited by Erik D’Souza

New Beginnings edited by Erik D’Souza

This is a collection of short stories written by British Columbian writers. Because Canada has a diverse population, there are tales from Africa, Asia and Europe as well as local stories. The collection contains both fiction and non-fiction and I was proud to include two of my own short stories both set in Tanzania.