Eight books to read ahead of Hong Kong International Literary Festival 2017
With star authors including Amy Tan, Ian Rankin, Min Jin Lee, Ruth Ware and Hideo Yokoyama attending this year’s event, we’ve put together a list of some of their best titles for you to work through before November
The organisers of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival have announced a stellar line-up of guest authors who will attend this year’s event, featuring several big names and a special focus on crime writers.
Here are eight must-reads from those authors, who you’ll be able to meet at the event from November 3-12.
Recommended book: Six Four
Japanese crime writer Hideo Yokoyama is mega-hot in Japan, but it was only with Six Four (2016), his sixth novel published in Japanese in 2012 and the first to be translated into English, that the wider world got to see what all the fuss is about.
The story centres on an unsolved crime, “Six Four”, the kidnapping and murder of a seven-year-old girl in 1989. Fourteen years on, one of the investigators from the case, Yoshinobu Mikami, who now works as the police force’s press director, starts to suspect a cover-up after a similar kidnapping occurs. To complicate matters, Mikami’s own daughter is missing, having run away from home months before.
The Guardian called Six Four a prime example of a “box set novel” – there’s no doubt it’s a page-turner and at 640-plus pages it’s a great companion on a long-haul flight.
Recommended book: Knots and Crosses
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Scottish crime legend Ian Rankin’s first John Rebus novel. Rankin was a student at Edinburgh University when he penned his first crime novel featuring Inspector Rebus, Knots and Crosses (1987). There are now 21 Rebus novels in the series. If you are new to Rankin then Knots and Crosses is a good place to start.
The book is about a serial killer preying on young children and Rebus is among a team of police officers trying to catch the killer. One of the joys of reading Rankin is exploring his home city of Edinburgh, a beautiful, sometimes dark and brooding, but always fascinating city.
Recommended book: The Woman in Cabin 10
If you love classic crime fiction, you’ll enjoy Ruth Ware. She was already being compared to Agatha Christie with her debut In a Dark, Dark Wood, which was released in 2015. With the publication of her second novel, The Woman in Cabin 10, a “locked-door mystery” about a murder on a luxury cruise ship in the North Sea, Ware admitted she owed a debt to Christie.
If this one hits the spot, move directly to The Lying Game which was published this summer and tells the story of four school friends bound together by a terrible secret.
THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE
Recommended book: The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan has made a literary career writing about growing up in a Chinese immigrant family in post-war America. The Joy Luck Club (1989) was her first book and it made her name.
Largely autobiographical, the novel is about the assimilation of Chinese families into the US and the tragedies they left behind in China. In 1949, four Chinese women, all new immigrants to San Francisco, meet to eat dim sum, play mahjong and talk. United by their shared pain they call themselves the Joy Luck Club.
Years later, when one of the women dies, her daughter takes her place at the mahjong table. And so the story unfolds, alternating between the mothers and the daughters and how they all struggle to adapt to life in America.
Recommended book: The Wangs vs the World
Charles Wang is the multimillionaire founder of a make-up company who loses everything in the 2008 financial crisis. No longer able to afford his children’s education, he drags his daughter out of school and his son out of college and together with his second wife Barbara sets off on a road trip from Los Angeles to upstate New York, where his eldest daughter has a hideout. The plan is to get his family to safety and then return to China to attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands. It’s a fun read with equal measures of comedy and compassion.
Recommended book: Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Set in 2016, Do Not Say We Have Nothing is centred on the search for Ai-ming, a student who came to stay with the protagonist Marie and her mother in Vancouver in 1990 after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. When the two first meet, Marie still is coming to terms with her father’s suicide in Hong Kong two years earlier. Now a 37-year-old maths professor, Marie is determined to find Ai-ming who, unable to return to China or to get permanent residency in Canada, entered the US with forged documents in 1991 and disappeared.
Min Jin Lee
Recommended book: Pachinko
Pachinko (2017) is a sweeping family saga covering four generations and beginning in Korea in 1910. After Sunja, the daughter of a poor family, gets pregnant and is ditched by her lover, a young Christian pastor offers to marry her and bring her to Japan. As Koreans in Osaka, the couple faces terrible discrimination. Life is tough, but they never give up.
The book’s title refers to the popular game in Japan that is a cross between pinball and a slot machine. Owning pachinko parlours offers a chance for the family to climb out of poverty.
Recommended book: Swimming Lessons
Claire Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days (2015), got great reviews and won the Desmond Elliott prize. Swimming Lessons, her second novel published earlier this year, continues her strong start.
The story begins with Gil Coleman looking out the window and seeing his dead wife outside. He convinces himself it couldn’t be her because she disappeared 12 years previously, presumed drowned. Before she disappeared, she wrote her husband letters about the truth of their marriage and hid them in his massive book collection.
Things get interesting when their daughter returns home to care for her now ailing father and finds out the truth about what happened to her mother.