Voting for this #CannonBookClub is now closed.
Who’s ready for an ambitious summer read? Here at the #CannonBookClub we are always on the lookout to expand our horizons and try new and different genres, so this summer we are going to go in the direction of Literary Fiction. Our twist this time is that we will be focusing on Non-Western authors. This is a very broad literary arena, so in order to find something new for many of us I have tried to pick books representative of various regions that are not already likely on your radar. We’ll see how I did.
As is our usual way, the voting window will be open for one week, and our choice will be announced on Thursday July 27. As with our previous #CannonBookClub meeting, our book discussion will take place on the second Wednesday of the month, so we will be discussing our selection on September 13.
This time we chose between four books.
- Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”
- In 1980s Syria, a young Muslim girl lives a secluded life behind the veil in the vast and perfumed house of her grandparents. Her three aunts—the pious Maryam, the liberal Safaa, and the free-spirited Marwa—raise her with the aid of their ever-devoted blind servant. Soon the high walls of the family home are no longer able to protect the girl from the social and political chaos outside. Witnessing the ruling dictatorship’s bloody campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, she is filled with hatred for the regime and becomes increasingly radical. In the footsteps of her beloved uncle, Bakr, she launches herself into a fight for her religion, her country, and ultimately, for her own future. Against the backdrop of real-life events, In Praise of Hatred is a stirring, layered story that echoes the violence currently plaguing the Middle East.
- Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His grief-stricken sister, Ajany, just returned from Brazil, and their father bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands, seeking some comfort and peace. But the murder has stirred memories long left untouched and unleashed a series of unexpected events: Odidi and Ajany’s mercurial mother flees in a fit of rage; a young Englishman arrives at the Ogandas’ house, seeking his missing father; a hardened policeman who has borne witness to unspeakable acts reopens a cold case; and an all-seeing Trader with a murky identity plots an overdue revenge. In scenes stretching from the violent upheaval of contemporary Kenya back through a shocking political assassination in 1969 and the Mau Mau uprisings against British colonial rule in the 1950s, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, buried deep within the shared past of the family and of a conflicted nation.Here is a spellbinding novel about a brother and sister who have lost their way; about how myths come to pass, history is written, and war stains us forever.
- For more than a century and a half, Dream of the Red Chamber has been recognized in China as the greatest of its novels, a Chinese Romeo-and-Juliet love story and a portrait of one of the world’s great civilizations. Chi-chen Wang’s translation is skillful, accurate and fascinating. Also called The Story of the Stone, it is one of China’s Four Great Classic Novels. It was written during the Qing Dynasty. The title has also been translated as Red Chamber Dream and A Dream of Red Mansions. Red Chamber is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the rise and decline of author Cao Xueqin’s own family and, by extension, of the Qing Dynasty. It was intended to be a memorial to the damsels the author knew in his youth: friends, relatives and servants. The novel is remarkable not only for its huge cast of characters and psychological scope, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese society.