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My 5 favourite books from the first half of 2018

‘Someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world.’ Mary Ruefle

Over the past six months as I have been travelling round India, I have been reading and reading and reading. Not that this is any different from normal, but what has been different is being exposed to numerous book swaps across India in which I’ve picked up books that I perhaps would not ordinarily choose. Find below a crop of some of my favourite reads from the past half year – in no particular order!

 

Dina’s Book

by Herbjørg Wassmo (1989)

This novel set amidst the icy winter fjords and midnight summer sun of 19th Century Northern Norway is a feast of the senses. We follow the life of enigmatic, angry, headstrong Dina, (one of the most unique protagonists I have discovered this year) as she tries to come to terms with her past and make peace with an acceptable future. The ending of the novel was a shock and one that I was not expecting at all; in hindsight, however, it’s cruel beauty couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

Sea of Memories

by Fiona Valpy (2018)

This tender novel is set on the windswept Île de Ré on the West coast of France before, during and after World War Two. As the plot progresses, the protagonist, Ella, is forced to make the most unbearable choice, one that is framed so poignantly that I found myself, as the reader, going through the same anguish as Ella as we follow her, heart and soul, in making her choice.

 

Train to Pakistan

by Khushwant Singh (1956)

It is 1947 in a small Indian village in northern India inhabited by Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. But as Partition is declared and the India – Pakistan borderline is drawn close to the village, will the bonds of this community survive? And what do the trains contain that are travelling across the border?

Expertly told by the late Khushwant Singh, one of India’s foremost writers, this book puts a human face onto the tragedy that cleaved a nation in two.

 

Running on the Roof of the World

by Jess Butterworth (2017)

I knew that while I was travelling in India with my family, we’d be visiting Daramshala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. So I wanted to find a book I could read to them that would help explain the Chinese occupation in Tibet which began in 1950, and why the Dalai Lama and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans live in India and other worldwide refugee communities rather than Tibet. Running on the Roof fit the bill perfectly. Following the journey of Tashi and Sam through the mountains from Tibet into India to seek an audience with the Dalai Lama after Tashi’s parents disappear, this book wasn’t always easy reading, but for young people or adults seeking a deeper understanding of the Tibetan refugee situation, as well as life for Tibetans in their Chinese-occupied lands, I’d highly recommend Jess Butterworth’s book.

 

The White Tiger

by Aravind Adiga (2008)

Delicious black humour abounds in Adiga’s Booker-winning novel set in India. Exposing the wide, gaping hole between rich and poor in the world’s most populous nation, this laugh-out-loud, irreverent book both cut deeply and made me laugh out loud. This should be required reading, in my opinion, for anyone planning to visit India or for seeking a greater understanding in class and caste divides in this country.

 

‘A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.’ Carl Sagan

Thank you for reading! I could never imagine picking up only the latest books to come out…I love dipping into a wide range of literature and re-discovering gems from the past as well as finding exciting new voices. For more fantastic reads, why not take a look at The 5 novels that have most influenced me in my lifemy favourite five books from the second half of 2017 & my top 5 reads of 2016.

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