#10 Books set in Myanmar (Burma)

Burma chroniclesThe river of lost footsteps: a personal history of Burma by Thant Myint-U – A story of modern Burma, in part through a telling of his own family’s history, in an interwoven narrative by turns lyrical, dramatic and appalling.

 Burmese Days by George Orwell. Classic novel set in Burma in the 20and 30’s

The art of hearing heartbeats: a novel by Jan-Philipp Sendker -A suspenseful love story set in the exotic Burmese countryside, where a young American woman discovers the secret that lived in her father’s heart for over fifty years

Return to Mandalay by  Rosanna Ley A woman’s search to find the truth about her grandfather’s past, her family origins and the red-eyed chinthe itself – enigmatic symbol of the riches of Mandalay.

Elephant moon by John Sweeney – Based on a little-known WW2 true story when a herd of 53 elephants was used by a young English schoolteacher to rescue a band of orphans in Burma and transport them to the safety of India. An incredible journey filled with adventure, tragedy and love.

 Return to MandalayThe road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone – In the new Chinese economy in the late ’80s, the frontier at Wanting is a magnet for outcasts & the desperate. To Na Ga it represents not the beginning of a new life, but the end of the road. Will, her American lover, has thrown her out leaving her with painful memories, a dollar bank account & a ticket back to Burma.

 From the land of green ghosts: a Burmese odyssey by Pascal Khoo Thwe – The autobiographical story of a young man’s upbringing in a remote tribal village in Burma and his subsequent journey from his strife-torn country to the tranquil quads of Cambridge

Freedom from fear and other writings by Aung San Suu Kyi – Reflects Suu Kyi’s greatest hopes and fears for her people, her concern about the need for international cooperation and gives poignant reminiscences of her role in politics

 Burma chronicles by  Guy Delisle – presents a personal and distinctively humorous glimpse into a political hotspot, putting a popular spin on current affairs.

A well-tempered heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker – Julia, a successful lawyer’s story is interwoven with that of a Burmese woman named Nu Nu who finds her world turned upside down when Burma goes to war and calls on her two young sons to be child soldiers

#10 Books set in Sicily

The dance of the seagullAnyone going to Sicily? It’s a fantastic place to visit, soak up the atmosphere with any of these titles.

The dance of the seagull by Andrea Camilleri – Rated 5 star by 12 readers, this is just one of the Inspector Montalbano novels adapted for TV and filmed on the south-eastern coast of Sicily in Ragusa, Scicli and Punta Secca -causing a tourist boom.

Inspector Montalbano is sitting on his porch at dawn when he sees a seagull fall from the sky. It performs a strange dance, before lying down to die. Perplexed by what he has witnessed, the scene hangs over him like an omen. About to depart for a holiday, Montalbano pops to the police station to tie up loose ends but when his dear colleague Fazio is discovered missing, he instead launches a desperate search.

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato – Hidden in the language of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedy ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, are several clues to an intriguing tale. It seems that the witty lovers Beatrice and Benedick, had a previous youthful love affair which ended bitterly. But how did they meet, why did the part, and what bought them together again?

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – This masterpiece is set amongst an aristocratic family facing social Time on my handsand political changes in the wake of Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily in 1860. At the head of the family is the prince, Don Fabrizio. Proud, stubborn, he is accustomed to knowing his own place in the world & expects his household to be run accordingly

The villa by Rosanna Ley – Initially resistant to her daughter, Tess, going back to her roots, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions. Meanwhile, Tess’ teenage daughter Ginny is stressed by college, and all three women are seeking answers. Will Villa Sirena bring them together?

The Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini – This novel tells the story of three generations of the Ucria family, seen through the eyes of the young Duchess Marianna. Married at 13 to her own uncle, set apart from others by her disability, she searches for fulfilment in a society in which women face either marriage and endless childbearing or a life within the walls of a convent

The Food of Love Cookery School by Nicky Pellegrino – Luca Amore runs cooking holidays in the Sicilian mountain town of Favio…

The Godfather by Mario Puzo – Mafia leader Vito Corleone, The Godfather, is the a benevolent despot who stops at nothing to gain and hold power. Set in Long Island, Hollywood and Sicily this is a story of a feudal society within society which does not hesitate to consolidate its power

Killing ground by Gerald Seymour – A young Englishwoman finds herself at the heart of a dangerous plot to trap the head of the Sicilian Mafia. In this thriller, Seymour truly captures the brooding atmosphere of Mafia-dominated Sicily

Time on my hands by Giorgio Vasta – Palermo 1978. Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro has been kidnapped in Rome by the notorious Red Brigades and found dead in a car boot two months after his disappearance . Three 11-year-old schoolboys avidly follow the news of the abduction as their admiration for the brigatisti grows. When the boys themselves resolve to abduct a classmate & incarcerate him in a makeshift ‘people’s prison’, the darkness within their world, and the world of the novel, becomes all-pervasive.

I Malavoglia: (the house by the medlar tree) by Giovanni Verga, 1840-1922 -This translation is a tragic tale of poverty, honour and survival where the weak go to the wall unmourned.

#10Books set in China to celebrate Chinese New Year

FrogIt’s the Year of the Wood Sheep (or Goat) in Chinese Astrology from 19th February – The Chinese word yáng refers both to goats and sheep and different countries have different interpreations. In Vietnam and Cambodia it’s goat, in Japan – sheep, in Korea and Mongolia, sheep or ram. Anyway, we’ve got a selection of great novels all translated from the Chinese.

Frog by Yan Mo -A celebrated midwife, skilled at delivering babies in difficult rural circumstances, finds herself at the blunt end of China’s controversial one child policy. A complex family story, told through letters and narrative forms, it explores the emotional and moral toll of state control on a traditional community that places a high value on a large family.

The bathing women by Ning Tie (it sold a million copies) Sisters Tiao and Fan grew up in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution where they witnessed ritual humiliation &suffering. They also witnessed the death of their baby sister in a tragic accident- which could have prevented.

Under the hawthorn tree by Mi Ai – In the late 70s a young girl, Jingqiu, falls in love with a boy nicknamed ‘Old Third’. Their romance is cut short by fate; Old Third dies before there is an The man with the compound eyesending for them, happy or not.

The last quarter of the moon by Zijian Chi – At the end of the 20thC an old woman sits among the birch trees and thinks back over her life, her loves, and the joys and tragedies that have befallen her family and her people, the Evenki tribe who wander the remote forests of north-eastern China with their herds of reindeer, & live in harmony with nature at its most beautiful and cruel.

The dark road by Jian Ma – Meili, a young peasant woman and her husband Kongzi, a school teacher & distant descendant of Confucius, have a daughter. Desperate to carry on his illustrious line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant without waiting for official permission. Family planning officers arrive to arrest violators of the population policy & they have to make a fugitive life on the river.

Lenin’s kisses by Lianke Yan – Deep in the Balou mountains is a small rural town populated by disabled people. Blind, deaf, and disfigured, the 197 citizens of Liven have until now enjoyed a peaceful, mutually supportive life out of sight and mind of the government. When an unseasonal snowstorm destroys the year’s crops, a county official dreams up a money-making scheme to boost his career & raise money for the district,  convincing the villagers to set up a travelling freak-show.

The flowers of warThe flowers of war by Geling Yan – A short novel is based on true events that took place during the Nanking Massacre in 1937 when the Japanese invaded the Chinese city. It tells the story of an American missionary who, for a few terrifying days, finds himself sheltering a group of schoolgirls, prostitutes & wounded Chinese soldiers in his church  compound

The man with the compound eyes by Ming Wu (Scifi) – On the island of Wayo Wayo, every second son must leave on the day he turns fifteen as a sacrifice to the Sea God. Atile’i is one such boy, but as the strongest swimmer and best sailor, he is determined to defy destiny and become the first to survive. Alice Shih, who has lost her husband and son in a climbing accident, is quietly preparing to The boat to redemptioncommit suicide in her house by the sea-  her plan is interrupted when a vast trash vortex comes crashing onto the shore of Taiwan, bringing Atile’i with it

The boat to redemption by Tong Su – Raw, emotional and unerringly funny, this is a profoundly human story of a people caught in the stranglehold not only of their own desires and needs, but also of a Party that sees everything and forgives nothing

Dream of Ding village by Yan Lianke It addresses the AIDS blood-contamination scandal in Henan province, where villagers were coerced into selling vast quantities of blood and then infected with the AIDS virus as they were injected with plasma to prevent anaemia