While newspaper columnists are busy trying to predict when the recession will end, and others pondering when Starbursts will turn back into Opal Fruits, I thought I would delve into the world of literature and make a few suggestions of my own for 2009 and 2010.
I’m no Mystic Meg, so rather than make predictions, I’ve thrown up a few ideas as to what titles I feel will make waves this year. Of course, I could be totally wrong in my assumptions put forth, but here goes….I must also add that the following books are not necessarily ones I’ve read, but they are novels which I feel will have an impact upon the reading public.
My first choice is The Vagrants by Yiyun Li.
I first heard this author being interviewed on a New York Times book podcast. She picked up the Guardian First Book award with her exquisitely crafted short story collection, set in and around China, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. This debut novel from Fourth Estate, is based on an incident in 1979, and looks at the ripple effect on individual lives in a provincial village when a young woman is sentenced to death for speaking out against the cultural revolution. The author grew up in Beijing and now lives in Oakland, California.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
The second book I’m flagging up is Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín which follows the life of Eilis Lacey, an Irish woman who cannot find work at home. When a job comes up in America, she leaves her family and her home, and sets out for a new life in Brooklyn. With a strong female character, this is one which is being promoted heavily in bookshops, and one which I feel will continue to dominate the book charts this year.
The Prayer Room by Shanthi Sekaran
My third choice is The Prayer Room by Shanthi Sekaran. Again, I was introduced to this book and the author via a literature podcast. The story begins in 1974, when young Englishman George Armitage goes to Madras, but instead of starting his Ph.D dissertation, he returns home with a bride named Viji. In her new American world, Viji seeks consolation in her prayer room at their new home in Sacramento. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of this book.
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
My fourth is Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury), a book which features central character Hiroko who is due to marry a man by the name of Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono, her world suddenly changes as a bomb is dropped on Nagasaki. The blast sears the birds from Hiroko’s kimono onto her back, a fusion of ‘charred silk, seared flesh’. The story moves forward and two years after the bombing, Hiroko travels to Delhi where her life will becomes intertwined with that of Konrad’s half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf.
All these books are strong contenders, I feel, for prizes. There are many other predictions which would be fun to make – perhaps Dan Brown will churn out yet another book in his series? Literature, like anything, is unpredictable.