Christmas Lit Gifts 2017: Choice picks in fiction

Heartwarming, gut-wrenching, thought-provoking and poignant – we have it all here in our selection of fiction. You’ll find something for everyone on your list from this wonderfully eclectic mix.

Lincoln in the Bardo
By George Saunders
This Man Booker Prize-winning first novel by George Saunders, a master of the short story, is written with his inimitable humour, pathos and grace. It tells the story of Abraham Lincoln and the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body. From this seed of historical truth, Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end? (Hardcover, RM79.95)

American War
By Omar El Akkad
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.
(Paperback, RM84.90)

Meddling Kids (A Blyton Summer Detective Club Adventure)
By Edgar Cantero
With raucous humour and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Meddling Kids delivers an exuberant and wickedly entertaining celebration of horror, love, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn. In summer 1977, the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster – another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboen Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. It’s now 1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader… which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years. The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world. (Hardcover, RM126.95)

I’d Die for You and Other Stories
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is a collection of the last remaining unpublished short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, iconic author of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night. All 18 short fictions collected here were lost in one sense or another: physically lost, coming to light only recently; lost in the turbulence of Fitzgerald’s later life; lost to readers because his editors sometimes did not understand what he was trying to write. These fascinating stories offer a new insight into the arc of Fitzgerald’s career, and demonstrate his stylistic agility and imaginative power as a writer at the forefront of Modern literature. (Paperback, RM69.90)

 

The History of Bees: A Novel
By Maja Lunde
This dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees – and to their children and one another – against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis. England, 1852: William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive – one that will give both him and his children honour and fame. United States, 2007: George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation. China, 2098: Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him. Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought-provoking story that is just as much about the powerful bond between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity. (Hardcover, RM83.90)

Yesterday
By Felicia Yap
This brilliant high-concept debut thriller by Malaysian born author Felicia Yap is set in a world with two types of people: those who can only remember yesterday, and those who can also recall the day before. You have just one lifeline to the past: your diary. Each night, you write down the things that matter. Each morning, your diary tells you where you were, who you loved and what you did. Today, the police are at your door. They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago. Can you trust the police, your husband or yourself? (Paperback, RM79.90)

 

The Travelling Cat Chronicles
By Hiro Arikawa, translated by‎ Philip Gabriel
It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side. Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say. Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. It shows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives. (Paperback, RM52.50)

Lily and the Octopus
By Steven Rowley
This is a novel about finding that special someone to share your life with. Ted Flask, a gay, single, struggling writer is stuck: unable to open himself up to intimacy except through the steadfast companionship of Lily, his elderly dachshund. When Lily’s health is compromised, Ted vows to save her by any means necessary. By turns hilarious and poignant, an adventure with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked truths of loss and longing, Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all. (Paperback, RM79.90)

The Golden House
By Salman Rushdie
When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden immigrates to the States under mysterious circumstances, he and his three adult children assume new identities, taking “Roman” names, and move into a grand mansion in downtown Manhattan. Arriving shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama, he and his sons, each extraordinary in his own right, quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society. The story of the Golden family is told from the point of view of their Manhattanite neighbour and confidant, René, an aspiring filmmaker who finds in the Goldens the perfect subject. René chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the high life of money, of art and fashion, a sibling quarrel, an unexpected metamorphosis, the arrival of a beautiful woman, betrayal and murder, and far away, in their abandoned homeland, some decent intelligence work. Invoking literature, pop culture, and the cinema, Rushdie spins the story of the American zeitgeist over the last eight years, hitting every beat: the rise of the birther movement, the Tea Party, Gamergate and identity politics; the backlash against political correctness; the ascendency of the superhero movie, and, of course, the insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain wearing make-up and with coloured hair. In a new world order of alternative truths, Salman Rushdie has written the ultimate novel about identity, truth, terror and lies. A brilliant, heartbreaking realist novel that is not only uncannily prescient but shows one of the world’s greatest storytellers working at the height of his powers. (Hardcover, RM99.90)

The Essex Serpent
By Sarah Perry
This critically acclaimed novel is set in 1893 London. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge. On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith. As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both. The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take. (Paperback, RM49.90)

Pachinko
By Min Jin Lee
One of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year, this page-turning saga follows four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family’s fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew. In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant-and that her lover is married-she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations. Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters-strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis-survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history. (Paperback, RM55.90)

Sing, Unburied, Sing
By Jesmyn Ward
Winner of The National Book Award 2017, this wrenching novel paints an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. It examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds. Jojo is 13 years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. It is a majestic new work from an extraordinary and singular author. (Paperback, RM75.90)

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