The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is a deeply moving but completely unsentimental book. In it, all the tensions within a long marriage are there, together with the interdependence, brutally torn open by the death of one partner. Didion offers no platitudes, or quick-fix solutions to grief, but the book is powerful, compelling and completely adult.
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin is the autobiography of a driven man, as well as being an extraordinary look at life in China. On the one hand, the reader is horrified by the social engineering of the Cultural Revolution; on the other, both attracted and repelled by the determination with which the author pursued his goal of being the best dancer in China — and of escaping to the West.
Shakti, compiled by Alleyn Diesel, offers something all too rare — a glimpse into the lives of neighbours we know shamefully little about.
The collection of stories told by Indian women from all walks of life in the Pietermaritzburg area offers history, social insight, entertainment and revelation. In a year when too much South African writing has been pretentious or boring, Shakti stands out.