If you turn to page 105 in this book you will see two extraordinary figures standing and facing each other in a colored albumen print from 1872. They both have bare feet; one wears a light-blue three-quarter length robe, rather like an elegant silk dressing-gown, and the other a similar one of a darker color, with what looks a little like a skirt underneath. They have rather serious expressions on their faces, and medium-length thick, dark, dry-looking hair. They both have upturned mustaches, rather in the style affected by Kaiser Wilhelm II, although not quite as extreme, and they look as if they’ve been painted on.

A frequent reader of the American foreign policy journal Foreign Affairs will feel right at home reading Kurt Campbell’s The Pivot. The author was the Obama administration’s principal architect of the US pivot or “rebalance” to Asia, and beyond the abundance of conventional wisdom, offers some important insights into the emergence of what many are calling the “Asian Century”.

One of the rewards of running a book review publication is the unexpected surprise that appears out of the blue. One of these is Filipina writer Catherine Torres’s recent collection Mariposa Gang and other stories. The ten stories in this slim volume—a mere 100 pages—are polished, accomplished and structurally sophisticated. Laconic, Torres can say a page in a paragraph. Her characters are human, their circumstances and dilemmas painfully recognizable and real.