Moïse de Camondo came from one of the most prominent Jewish families in 19th-century Constantinople, but in 1869 at the age of nine he moved with his family to a new promised land for Jews: Paris. At the conclusion of the French Revolution almost a century earlier, France became the only nation in Europe to grant citizenship to Jews. The Camondo family and many others around Europe and Russia, including the Ephrussi family from Odessa, built homes on the Rue de Monceau in Paris’s 8th arrondissement. Edmund de Waal, author of the best-selling memoir, The Hare With Amber Eyes, is a descendant of the Ephrussis and a distant relative of the Camondos. His latest book is a collection of imaginary letters to the late Moïse de Camondo from the archives of Moïse’s former residence, the Musée de Camondo.
It is tempting to see Anuk Arudpragasam’s new novel A Passage North, set in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, as having political intent. It undoubtedly does: it is set around the dutiful visit of Krishan, a Tamil living in Colombo, to Sri Lanka’s war-scarred Northern Province for the funeral of Rani, his grandmother’s erstwhile care-taker, herself damaged by the war that took her two sons.
We all probably at one point or other in our lives have wanted a do-over. Go back to take the left fork in the road, instead of the right. Take back words said in anger, or say words not voiced. In Eto Mori’s novel, Colorful, a nameless soul from a person who committed an egregious sin is allowed another chance at life to make up for that transgression. However, the soul must agree to accept the conditions of the do-over, or face eternal death, never being able to reincarnate.
The narrator in Pik-Shuen Fung’s debut novel, Ghost Forest, is a child in an “astronaut” family. As anyone who has ever orbited Hong Kong knows, this term was coined there to describe families that emigrated—usually to Canada, Australia or the United States—while the fathers stay back to work, “flying here, flying there”. It’s a resulting father-daughter relationship that provides the backbone of Fung’s novel, arranged as a collection of related vignettes, mostly one or two pages, but sometimes consisting of only several words.
Daisy and Tom, Nick and Gatsby. There’s something perpetually alluring about the Jazz Age. Nghi Vo’s reworking of the iconic The Great Gatsby in her debut, The Chosen and the Beautiful, boldly inserts Jordan Baker, a bisexual Vietnamese adoptee, into the original story with the original characters (something only really possible since the beginning of this year when the copyright of Fitzgerald’s novel ran out; it’s now in the public domain). This rewrite shakes up the homogeneity of the story yet stays true (in its way) to the Fitzgerald original.
Anti-miscegenation laws—laws prohibiting interracial marriage and relationships—plagued the United States and were a part of the American fabric for centuries, some lasting until the 1960s. Tom Lin frames his debut novel, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, around this issue as the eponymous protagonist of the story was married to a white woman until her father and the local law enforcement put an end to it. Ming Tsu is now out for revenge. He’s also an assassin by trade.
Choi Eunyong’s best-selling Shoko’s Smile has earned her comparisons to novelists such as Sally Rooney and Marilynne Robinson for the collection’s carefully crafted portraits of women’s relationships and intimacies formed and dissolved over time.