A dazzling magic realist debut that dances with Vietnamese folklore. A fresh and funny feminist-infused page-turner about Singaporean Sarong Party Girls. An intimate family journey through a turbulent time in Taiwan’s history. A whimsical murder mystery set in modern Mumbai. Since a stack of our recent favourite reads were written by Asian authors, we thought we’d create this collection to highlight these newly-published gems (alongside older treasures by writers from this vast 48-country continent).
Among the recently published books we’ve loved, mention must go to The Far Field in which a privileged Bangalorean woman travels to a remote region of Kashmir to find the man who meant much to her deceased mother - it’s magnetic, moving and majestically-written. For funny modern fiction with feisty bite, try Hana Khan Carries On and Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, a brilliantly witty writer who was born in Toronto to South Asian immigrants. And I have to share my love of Dragonfly Eyes, a dazzling crossover novel with the power to grip all ages as its celebrated Chinese author, Cao Wenxuan, takes readers on an exhilarating journey from 1920s France, to post-war Shanghai, to rural Cultural Revolution China. I adored every word of this beautifully-written book in the charming company of young Ah Mei and her beloved grandmother.
Turning now to books published further back in time, Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable (1935) is an undisputed classic that explores India’s caste system through a day in the life story of a sweeper and toilet-cleaner. Staying in India, Vikram Seth’s epic love story, A Suitable Boy (1993), is a sumptuous reading experience that deftly marries love and romance with politics - of both the societal and familial kind. Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies is a beaut too, an epic saga set just before the Opium Wars that sees a hotchpotch of sailors, stowaways and convicts aboard an old slaving-ship undertake a turbulent voyage across the Indian Ocean.
Switching continents, if you haven’t yet read Wild Swans, here’s your friendly reminder that this global bestseller sweeps readers through 20th-century Chinese history across three generations of women in illuminating style. Then there’s Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, a folklore-flavoured classic set during the Chinese revolution that offers unique personal insights into life as an immigrant in America. Alternatively, Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Change serves up sumptuous, seductive stories of love, longing and the shifting tides of family life.
Like we said at the start, the continent is vast, and so too are the reading experiences that await in this collection of awesome Asian-authored novels - enjoy.