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Globe Books special

The 2010 Globe 100: International fiction Add to ...

Titles are listed in alphabetical order. To read the Globe and Mail's review of each book, click on the title.

A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD By Jennifer Egan (Knopf)

Music agent Bennie Salazar lists his catalogue of shame: His barber discovers lice on his son's scalp. A girl he lusts after walks in on him while he is on the toilet. He kisses a Mother Superior on the mouth after signing the nuns for a record deal. Egan is a fearless writer, game for risk. Here she employs a kaleidoscopic spin of styles, switches up points of view and emotional tones, even creating a dazzling 75-page interlude in PowerPoint. Ami Sands Brodoff

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C By Tom McCarthy (Knopf)

In this Man Booker Prize short-listed work, Serge Carrefax is born, in spite of the altered state of his deaf, chloroformed mother, with a caul. Serge's sister, young Sophie, is shielded too late from seeing this birth. His father is an amateur technology inventor and a teacher of speech to the deaf. Communication is his métier, just as communication is the means to McCarthy's end. C is a Babel of encodings, puzzles, disentanglements. Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

COMEDY IN A MINOR KEY By Hans Keilson, translated by Damion Searls (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Keilson's novella is a tonally eccentric work, a mixture of grief, hope, fear and dry slapstick. Set in Holland during the Second World War, it is the story of a couple who take in a Jewish man to protect him from the Nazis. The Jewish man is older than they are, more complicated, more vulnerable, of course, but also essentially unremarkable, simply human. Then one day he dies, an ordinary death. This is the work of a consummate artist, a wonderful writer. André Alexis

FALL OF GIANTS: Book One of the Century Trilogy By Ken Follett (Dutton)

A cross between Ken Follett's grand medieval epics and his 20th-century spy thrillers, Fall of Giants involves a huge cast of characters, interweaves the personal and political and offers pulse-pounding action scenes, propulsive suspense and intriguing depictions of ordinary people transformed by war. Recounting a world-changing sequence of events from many angles, it provides a panoramic view not just of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, but of the entire era. Sarah Johnson

FATHER OF THE RAIN By Lily King (Atlantic Monthly)

Alcoholics and addicts, as everyone knows, come in every class, colour and political orientation, and while I suppose the upper-class addicts I have known are better at being viciously analytical while they lay to waste every life they touch, addicts of every sort - plain and simple - destroy their children. Which to me, aside from the very fine writing, is the point of this beautiful, sere and ruthless book. Elizabeth Nickson

FOREIGN BODIES By Cynthia Ozick (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In Foreign Bodies, Bea, a middle-aged, single, schoolteacher, is bullied by her brashly successful businessman brother into flying to 1950s Paris in search of his long-absent, churlish son Julian. The book may bow to Henry James's The Ambassadors, but it also kicks over the master's traces, introducing new characters and fresh elements of plot, and uncovering supplementary, sometimes radically different meanings in the events narrated. Janice Kulyk Keefer

GREAT HOUSE By Nicole Krauss (Norton)

Told in five parts, linked by a massive antique desk, Great House explores the question of appropriation as it pertains to history, love and art. Krauss confronts some of the worst offences of the 20th century and the ephemerality of human life. Krauss's lucid, intelligent prose is the real treat here; her imagery seems to excavate hidden knowledge. Martha Schabas

HEROIC MEASURES By Jill Ciment (Pantheon)

"Lifelong New Yorkers" Ruth and Alex have put their apartment up for sale, but in the midst of it all their 12-year-old dachshund collapses; at the same time, a trucker skids his oil tanker into a tunnel, blocking the way into and out of New York. The city shuts down, and Ruth and Alex must walk blocks to the vet. The book is simple and quiet, yet stirringly beautiful and full of life and love. Michelle Berry

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND By Helen Simonson (Bond Street Books)

This is a love story between widower Major Pettigrew and widow Mrs. Ali, set in the invented English village of Edgecombe St. Mary, and it's a generous-hearted novel about people of real character struggling to overcome a vast array of benumbing conventions: those of race, class and family; of the political correctness that seems to be the modern world's only answer to the sins of past empires; and the particularly self-serving ethics espoused by the Youtube generation. Peter Scowen

NEMESIS By Philip Roth (Hamish Hamilton Canada)

In June, 1944, a series of polio epidemics swept through North America, paralyzing and killing victims, often children, and paralyzing communities with panic. It is this terror that forms the backdrop for Nemesis. Dealing with events and attitudes of almost 70 years ago, it can be considered historical fiction, but - as often with Roth - those distant attitudes, the fear of a terrible, predatory danger lurking, along with flailing, desperate government and private responses, resonate powerfully today. Guy Gavriel Kay

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR By John le Carré (Viking Canada)

Le Carré hits top form with this tale of a Russian money-launderer seeking a way out when he realizes that his main client, a Russian super gangster, is planning to have him whacked. In desperation, he turns to an English academic in the hope that Britain's intelligence agency, MI6, will save him from his fate. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Well worth the read. Misha Glenny

PARROT & OLIVIER IN AMERICA By Peter Carey (Random House Canada)

Olivier has been bundled off to America at the behest of his mother, who suffered brutally under the French Terror of 1793, and thinks only of how to save her son from a similar fate. Accompanying him is Parrot, an English orphan with artistic aspirations who is yoked to "Olivier de Bah-bah Garmont" as servant, gadfly and spy. Carey has a wicked talent for historical voice, particularly the richly humorous circumlocutions of 19th-century diction. Annabel Lyon

SHADOW TAG By Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins)

Shadow Tag is the verbal equivalent of carpet-bombing. Gil is a painter and Irene is his subject. They are both native Americans, and are locked in an incendiary battle that scorches them and their children. They are educated, intelligent, gifted people whose crippled relationship spreads misery in an ever-widening circle. Their desperation is monstrous, and Louise Erdrich's presentation of it is formidable. Candace Fertile

SOLAR By Ian McEwan (Knopf Canada)

Misanthropic Michael Beard is appointed the head of the British government's new National Centre for Renewable Energy. A chance remark by this expert in quantum mechanics, who's been coasting for years on his Nobel Prize, has everyone at the Centre running off half-cocked to pour all of its resources into creating a single-household wind turbine. The fun truly begins when Beard is invited to a retreat near the North Pole for artists and scientists to see global warming close-up. Zsuzsi Gartner

SO MUCH FOR THAT By Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)

Shriver's novel, set in 2005-06 in New York City, follows two families dealing with the hell that is the failing body in a culture bent on disavowing mortality. And it's frequently hilarious. I marvelled at Shriver's finely wrought sentences and million-dollar vocabulary, but the main drive to continue reading was the brutal literary autopsy of two marriages struggling under the weight of terminal illness and impending financial ruin. Zoe Whittall

SPIES OF THE BALKANS By Alan Furst (Random House)

Like Furst's other novels, Balkans is deftly written and rooted in specifics of time and place. The appealing protagonist, Salonika detective Constantine (Costa) Zannis, operates as a special sort of policeman, handling sensitive matters for the political elite in this port in northern Greece. It's 1940-41, Europeans good and bad are facing narrow, nasty choices as the mother of all wars sneaks up on them. Peter Behrens

SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY By Gary Shteyngart (Random House)

In this satire set in the near future, Lenny Abramov, who sells "Indefinite Life Extension" for a living, decides he is going to live forever. By slightly exaggerating and exacerbating the symptoms of our anxious, frenetic and insecure times, Shteyngart creates a frightening world, where problems of connecting, despite technology, exist more than ever. Super Sad True Love Story is a smart, funny and sad satire that leaves one worried for the future. John Goldbach

THE FINKLER QUESTION By Howard Jacobson (Bloomsbury)

Julian Treslove wants to be Jewish, but he is less attracted by the prospect of joyful holidays and ethical rigour than by Jewish pain and terror. Treslove's quest is quixotic, but it's a perfect way for author Howard Jacobson to explore virtually every cranny of modern Jewish identity. The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize, is heartbreakingly funny, but also filled to the brim with controversial "talking points": the perfect way to turn your book club meeting into a Six-Day War. Cynthia Macdonald

THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH By Rick Moody (Little Brown)

The Four Fingers of Death is big, bold, juicy and thought-provoking. Rick Moody has become the most fun serious writer in America. It's a genre-skewering satire of early-21st-century America, replete with meta-fictional high jinks. The book is "A Novelization, with Introduction, Afterward and Notes" by one Montese Crandall. Crandall's beloved wife, Tara, is dying, his limited funds dwindling, his dream of authorship limited to single-sentence stories published on an obscure literary website. Zsuzsi Gartner

THE HUNGRY GHOSTS By Anne Berry (HarperCollins)

A stunning debut, brilliant in the seamless intricacy of a story that plays out over a 60-year period, beginning with the brutal Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. The story centres on two characters, 12-year-old Alice Safford, the daughter of a high-ranking official in the British colonial government in Hong Kong, and the restless spirit of Lin Shui, a young girl raped and murdered by a Japanese solider in 1942. Christy Ann Conlin

THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF MAF THE DOG AND OF HIS FRIEND, MARILYN MONROE By Andrew O'Hagan (McClelland & Stewart)

We enter Maf's odyssey at the country estate of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Maf, a white fluffy puppy, is about to be sold to the mother of Natalie Wood. Maf is given in turn to Frank Sinatra, seeking a canine gift for Marilyn Monroe. Maf's physical picaresque is more than matched by his mind's articulated journeys through politics, art, literature, food, human and dog behaviour, politics, film, theatre and literature. A true originsal, a treasure trove and a delight. Gale Zoë Garnett

THE LONG SONG By Andrea Levy (Hamish Hamilton Canada)

The Long Song is a wickedly funny parody of life at Amity sugar cane plantation in Jamaica, in the years leading up to and just after emancipation of July 31, 1838. It is in many ways a comedy of manners on life in the great house, taking equal shots at despicable masters and their luckless slaves, who survive them through sly ingenuity and resilient perversity. But beneath its surface lurks the deeper reality of an abhorrently violent social system. Rachel Manley

THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE By Aimee Bender (Doubleday)

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is magical, but it is not magic realism. It is more robust than that. There is dream logic, and there is waking logic, and in Bender's fiction, the two co-operate. They swirl. The result is a hybrid of dream and reality so seamless and persuasive that you will realize (or remember) that you, too, have lived your life on the outskirts of Hollywood, a few blocks south of Sunset. Jessica Grant

THE PREGNANT WIDOW By Martin Amis (Knopf Canada)

Amis's protagonist, Keith, reflects back on one summer in the 1970s, when he was about to turn 21. He is staying at an Italian castle, lolling away his summer while reading through the British canon and longing for illicit sex, ruminating on it and dreaming about it. Or at least reading about it. Keith is waiting for the sexual revolution to go full-throttle. And while Amis is very funny about sex, he is very serious about getting old. Lisa Moore

THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET| By David Mitchell (Knopf Canada)

Set in 1799, on the man-made island of Dejima in Nagasaki Harbour, a tiny, isolated outpost of the Dutch East India Company, the story is essentially a doomed, long-range love affair between Orito Aibagawa, a midwife and a relatively liberated woman, and young Jacob de Zoet, a clerk who has signed on for five years with the failing company. A novel of of exceptional intelligence, richness and vitality. Charles Foran

TINKERS By Paul Harding (HarperCollins)

George Washington Crosby is dying. In his late seventies, he lies motionless, largely incoherent, in a "rented hospital bed, placed in the middle of his own living room," surrounded by his family. The Pulitzer-winning Tinkers (fully merited) is concerned with George's death, but that's not what the novel is about. Rather, Tinkers is a moving rendering of two lives, that of George, and his father Howard, who was a tinker in rural New England in the 1920s. Robert Wiersema

TO THE END OF THE LAND By David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen (McClelland & Stewart)

This deeply moving, profoundly sad book's primary narrative is of a mother's long hike through the Israeli countryside after her younger son decides to return to his military unit for one last campaign. Unable to bear waiting for the dreaded knock on the door, she "flees." If the soldiers bearing the bad news of her son's death "can't find her, [her son]won't get hurt." She drags along an old friend, who is her son's biological father and her husband's best friend. Rick Archbold

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