The Ginger Tree – Oswald Wynd
In 1903, a young Scotswoman named Mary Mackenzie sets sail for China to marry her betrothed, a military attaché in Peking. But soon after her arrival, Mary falls into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman, scandalizing the British community.
Casting her out of the European community, her compatriots tear her away from her small daughter. A woman abandoned and alone, Mary learns to survive over forty tumultuous years in Asia, including two world wars and the cataclysmic Tokyo earthquake of 1923.
Beside a Burning Sea – John Shors
One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is patrolling the South Pacific on a mission of mercy—to save wounded American soldiers. The next, Benevolence is split in two by a torpedo, killing almost everyone on board. A small band of survivors, including an injured Japanese soldier and a young American nurse whom he saves from drowning, makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island.
Akira has suffered five years of bloodshed and horror fighting for the Japanese empire. Now, surrounded by enemies he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company—and rediscovers his love of poetry. While sharing the mystery and beauty of this passion with Annie, the captivating but tormented woman he rescued, Akira grapples with the pain of his past while helping Annie uncover the promise of her future. Meanwhile, the remaining castaways endure a world not of their making—a world as barbaric as it is beautiful, as hateful as it is loving.
The Last Brother – Nathacha Appanah, translated by Geoffrey Strachan
1944 is coming to a close and nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a mysterious boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles whose harrowing journey took them from Nazi-occupied Europe to Palestine, where they were refused entry and sent on to indefinite detainment in Mauritius.
A massive storm on the island leads to a breach of security at the camp, and David escapes, with Raj’s help. After a few days spent hiding from Raj’s cruel father, the two young boys flee into the forest. Danger, hunger, and malaria turn what at first seems like an adventure to Raj into an increasingly desperate mission.
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai – Wang Anyi, translated by Michael Berry, Susan Chan Egan
Set in post-World War II Shanghai, “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the “longtong,” the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai’s working-class neighborhoods.
Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of “old Shanghai” – a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication – only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth.
Little Hut of Leaping Fishes – Chiew-Siah Tei
Mingzhi is born to be a mandarin: as the formidable Master Chai’s first grandson, his life is mapped from the moment of his birth. But times are changing in China, and as Mingzhi grows, he begins to question his privileged heritage and the secrets and shadows that lurk in the corners of the Chai mansion; eager to flee from the corruption, treachery and rivalries of his family – Master Chai, who farms opium poppies and beats out orders with his dragon stick; the jealousy of his second mother and half brother; and his opium-addict father – Mingzhi soon realises his only path to freedom is through learning. But as the foreign devils begin to encroach on China, Mingzhi is torn between two cultures; he must make his choice between the past and the future.