Lafcadio Hearn, born of an Irish surgeon and a Greek mother, became known later in life as Koizumi Yakumo after marrying in Japan and taking Japanese citizenship to preserve his wife’s inheritance. Hearn or Koizumi was a journalist and an author, and one of the early English writers to introduce Japan to the outside world during the Meiji era. Two recent novels—The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong and Black Dragonfly by Jean Pasley—have centered around his life, but in two very different ways.
The year is 1985. Durga is visiting her grandmother Mary in rural Malaysia. It’s not a particularly happy occasion: Mary is tough and sharp-tongued, and “home” sparks bad memories for Durga.
Edward Rutherfurd is known for massive historical novels usually set in cities like New York, Paris and London. They dig deeply into a specific place and he focuses on a certain period. His latest is titled China and spans the last seventy years of the Qing Dynasty: which covers the Opium Wars, Taiping and Boxer Rebellions, and Pu Yi’s ascension to the throne as the last emperor.
Classically Russian in length and possibly ambition, Vladimir Gonik’s Orchestra, recently translated into English by Christopher Culver, might prove the sleeper of the year. Three interlocking narratives and families play out over almost 40 years with the doomed Korean Air Lines flight 007 as the linchpin.
Lady Han is a matriarch in Sichuan province during the last years of the Qing dynasty. She has supported the education of her daughter, Iris, and formally adopted Jasmine, the daughter of her trusted maid, A-mei. Life in the Han household is pleasant and comfortable until 1911, and it’s not because of the impending fall of the dynasty.
May 1857. The Indian city of Shahjahanabad, today called Delhi, is tense. British officers are worried about rumors of insubordination and rebellion elsewhere in India, while the local residents both await and fear a coming storm of revolutionary fervor.
Vanessa R Sasson’s debut novel Yasodhara and the Buddha takes the life of Gautama Buddha, the stuff of scripture and legend, and lays out a story about love between him and his wife. And a fascinating story it is, too, about ego, love, and renunciation as love.