Ayesha At Last
This positive, optimistic, generous-hearted take on a multicultural world in the 21st century is accurately described on the cover as ‘‘a modern, witty Muslim salute to Pride and Prejudice". It says much for Jane Austen that so many variations on her themes are still possible and effective over 200 years after her death, and this is yet another new angle. Ayesha Shamsi, transplanted from India to Canada after her father’s death and now a happy young woman in a boisterous extended family, has little time for the judgmental Khalid, born in Toronto but raised as a conservative Muslim man. The unlikely romance proceeds slowly through various sharp observations about the problems and prejudices encountered by Muslims in the West, including family troubles. As with other clever Austen adaptations, the reader will have fun following the parallels of plot and character.
The Woman From Saint Germain
Simon & Schuster, $29.99
If you are a reader who needs to ‘‘like the characters’’, then this novel may not be for you. But if you know anything about the history of Europe during the Second World War, this story will keep you gripped. Of the three main characters, Eleanor the American in Paris seems vain and entitled, and Henk the mysterious foreigner is surly and annoying. Going against all stereotypes, the German police detective Bauer, who is soon on the trail of these two after they become wanted fugitives, is the easiest of the three to like. Eleanor and Henk are fleeing Vichy France and trying to get across the Spanish border to freedom, with Bauer on their trail. As these major characters and several minor ones are developed in the course of a thriller-like plot, we come to understand better the complexity of their motives and their personalities.
The War Artist
Brigadier James Phelan is a career soldier who has survived into his 50s without any major trauma, but then he finds himself racked with guilt after the death in Afghanistan of a young private whose life might not have been wasted if Phelan had not insisted on joining a particular patrol and been present when it was ambushed. Accompanying the body home to Australia is not enough to assuage his guilt, and neither is his desperate act of memorialisation, a tattoo on his arm of the dead soldier’s name and date of death. This is an earnest and sometimes moving novel about the effects of PTSD and war, not only on the immediate participants but also on those close to them. The sexual encounter that precipitates a big chunk of the plot will be unconvincing to many, but the dramatic ending seems all too possible and perhaps even inevitable.
The Shining Wall
Transit Lounge, $29.99
The shining wall of the title is the protective and heavily defended wall around an unnamed city in a landscape ravaged by climate change, a futuristic scenario in which the human race, as it has always done, has sorted itself into a society with layers of privilege and power. The Citizens are those who live within the Wall, their needs attended to by androids, robots, and ‘‘Neo-Neandertals’’ produced in the clone orphanage. In slummy settlements outside the wall, the Demi-Citizens live hand to mouth and the dangerous Rewilders roam the badlands. But when chaos breaks out across this whole society, bonds of affection and support can be forged and sustained across the barriers of species. The writing in this novel can be rough around the edges but the story is brimming with ideas about technology and its implications for the future of humanity.