PositiveThe Asian Review of Books... could easily be just another slice of \'misery lit\' if its eponymous heroine weren’t such a firecracker ... This complex plot has an equally intricate backdrop. Author Hozar clearly demonstrates the faultlines which underlaid the collapse of the monarchy and the 1979 revolution ... Hozar doesn’t overtly lay the blame for the revolution at any particular party’s door but her choice of protagonist makes some indications ... a valuable lesson for global society now where fake news can so easily be promulgated by a largely unregulated social media.
Yu Miri, Trans. by Morgan Giles
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksAs Tokyo once again gears up to host the Olympic Games in 2020, this novel is a pertinent intervention. Yu makes it clear that the denizens of Ueno Park are not homogeneously evil, they are just disadvantaged. Yu shows intellectuals, unemployed salarymen and divorcees, namely people like us, living among the tarp-and-cardboard population. In this way she makes it clear we are all only one slip away from joining them.
PositiveThe Asian Review of Books... a simmering tale of passion and murder ... The seemingly complicated structure works: events in the past are clearly differentiated and Sumiko’s reactions to them are heightened by the first-person viewpoint. It also allows Stephanie Scott to mix a tender, literary love story with a meticulously researched police procedural...The result is seamless, although perhaps not as twisty as average detective fiction. But the more literary parts of the story more than compensate. Scott has a talent for descriptive writing and the ability to convey large ideas in a brief sentence ... There is plenty to learn from this book about Japanese society, legal process, photography and even geography. Scott is also keen to show how events of the past can have long-lasting effects on the present. The strongest theme to emerge however is that of the perils of living your life as others wish ... a strong message of hope and self-realization from an unusually intelligent whodunnit.
Javad Djavahery, Trans. by Emma Ramadan
PositiveAsian Review of Books... a deeply nostalgic tale of love and loss set against the revolution of 1979 ... The characters are so vividly drawn and their setting so comprehensively realized ... Having said that, Nilou is an obvious metaphor for Iran. Before the Revolution, she can speak, dress and act as she chooses. Afterwards, her liberty—both mental and physical—is severely restricted, for which the narrator feels culpable ... My Part of Her should perhaps be read as a warning. It is a novel of realities, not ideas—and certainly not the kind of false ideas which Djavadhery shows lead to the collapse of pre-revolution Iran.
Quế Mai Phan Nguyễn
PositiveAsian Review of BooksThis engrossing family saga, both Quế Mai’s debut novel and her first book in English, provides a fresh, and ultimately uplifting, perspective on the American-Vietnamese war ... By telling the stories of what happened to ordinary people during this troubled time in Vietnamese history, their memories are kept alive and they can live on through their descendants. It’s a message of comfort but also of hope for the future[.]
PositiveAsian Review of BooksDoshi does not shy away from the more unpleasant features of the Indian everyday, detailing the poverty and savagery of life at the edge ... With whatever family structure she had loosely strung together now gone, Grace belatedly recognizes that the freedom from human connection which she sought was not actually what she wanted or needed ... Her final realization, that \'it’s not about living away from the world but living in it,\' is a thought-provoking theory for those experiencing an existential crisis of their own.
PositiveAsian Review of BooksDespite the challenging subject matter, Anappara keeps the tone light-hearted ... The gaps in the children’s innocent reasoning are quickly filled in by a world-wise, grown-up reader and rendered the more horrible for it ... Anappara offers no direct solution to the crisis she identifies, although most readers will infer that ending police corruption would be a start. Rather than lecture, she allows the characters to simply tell their stories which proves to be a far more effective method of delivering her message. If enough people hear it, then this story could very well save lives.
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksThe search for meaning and identity in an unforgiving environment is a well-trodden path. However, Kawakami states the obvious with such acuity that her prose becomes resonant. The simplicity of the stories and their style is deceptive. Underneath it lies layers of significance on to which each re-reading sheds a little more light. Endlessly thought-provoking, The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino is all the more remarkable for couching its insights in such accessible terms.
Jamil Jan Kochai
PositiveAsian Review of BooksThe setting of Logar would be a rural idyll if it were not for the war. The black thread of violence runs through every tale and the individual who tells it. It is then that we begin to see the point of the stories which is not just to entertain. They are in fact a vehicle for education, both as an oral history of the family and the nation but also, mingled with religious teaching and fables, a primer for Afghan culture. And, perhaps more importantly, they become a way of absorbing the war more easily. By encasing horrific events in a blanket of \'story,\' the awful realities of conflict become sanitized and distanced ... By threading contemporary life with legend, the reader is challenged with differentiating reality from fiction.
RaveThe Asian Review of BooksReading King Lear in advance will provide a more immersive experience ... like Shakespeare, Taneja can write both poetically and downright crudely—sometimes on the same page. Her language encompasses a wide spectrum ranging from colloquial English to whole sentences of romanized Hindi to the modern compressions used on social media. Whatever the mode, Taneja’s prose is always intense, detailed and engrossing. Readers will feel the touch of a five-star hotel’s feather pillow as vividly as they smell the sewers of an industrial town’s slum tenements ... We That are Young is also about broken dreams: specifically the betrayal of one generation by its children and more generally the realization that the promises of capitalism haven’t come true for everyone ... Taneja’s message to those that are young: if you don’t like the way things are, now is the time to get up and change them.
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksDespite being set in Zamana, a fictional city in contemporary Pakistan, this novel is no fantasy. Its depiction of religious intolerance is quite the opposite—all too depressingly real. Yet author Nadeem Aslam shines hope into nightmare with the notion that love (and books) could, one day, conquer all ... He heaps abuse after abuse on to his characters: bigotry and bullying, followed by torture and imprisonment, all combined with an omnipresent government surveillance looking for thoughtcrime to punish. Just as the boundaries of credibility are reached, Aslam lobs in a matter-of-fact statement which gives the fiction a horrible ring of authenticity.
PositiveThe Asian Review of Books...this novella is a comforting read until the grounds at the end which leave a surprisingly bitter taste. On the surface, Ghachar Ghochar is a family saga which charts the everyday life of its members as they move from poor to wealthy in one generation. As to be expected, the family becomes corrupted by its newfound riches over time. But author Vivek Shanbhag’s skillful treatment of the cliché turns it into a metaphor for modern India and provides the insight that the impact of economic prosperity isn’t always positive. In particular, the work shows that women are generally the losers in a society obsessed with consumer disposables.