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March 5, 2004

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Stories Around the World

Sanyat Sattar


Rules For a Pretty Woman
Suzette Francis
Avon; September 2003
ISBN: 0060535423
Dr. Lenita Mae Faulkner has come a long way from her dirt-poor beginnings in Madoosa County. All she's missing is a family. And with her nine-year live-in lover Ralph seemingly about to pop the question, it looks like she's about to get her wish -- a good thing, too, since Lenny's biological clock is ticking rapidly toward thirty-five. But instead of proposing, Ralph skips out, empties their joint bank account, and runs off with another woman. And on top of that, a true family catastrophe is calling her back to tiny Madoosa -- the last place Lenny wants to be. Home again at the lowest point of her once-charmed life, Lenny is blasted by a forgotten piece of her past: a diary she kept in the fifth grade containing a list of rules she had created to live by. And in their simple, fervent honesty is the impetus for her to get out and start living again.


Battle Royale
Koushun Takami
Viz Communications; February 2003
ISBN: 156931778X

Battle Royale, a high-octane thriller about senseless youth violence, is one of Japan's best-selling and most controversial novels. As part of a ruthless programme by the totalitarian government, ninth-grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food, and various weapons. Forced to wear special collars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one "winner" remains. The elimination contest becomes the ultimate in must-see reality television. A Japanese pulp classic available in English for the first time, Battle Royale is a potent allegory of what it means to be young and survive in today's dog-eat-dog world. The first novel by small-town journalist Koushun Takami, it went on to become an even more notorious film by 70-year-old gangster director Kinji Fukusaku.



Brick Lane
Monica Ali
Scribner; September 2003
ISBN: 0743243307

Wildly embraced by critics, readers, and contest judges (who put it on the short-list for the 2003 Man Booker Prize), Brick Lane is indeed a rare find: a book that lives up to its hype. Monica Ali's debut novel chronicles the life of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl so sickly at birth that the midwife at first declares her stillborn. At 18 her parents arrange a marriage to Chanu, a Bangali immigrant, living in England. Although Chanu--who's twice Nazneen's age--turns out to be a foolish blowhard who "had a face like a frog," Nazneen accepts her fate, which seems to be the main life lesson taught by the women in her family. "If God wanted us to ask questions," her mother tells her, "…he would have made us men." Over the next decade-and-a-half Nazneen grows into a strong, confident woman who doesn't defy fate so much as bend it to her will. The great delight to be had in Brick Lane lies with Ali's characters, from Chanu the kindly fool to Mrs. Islam the elderly loan shark to Karim the political rabble-rouser, all living in a hothouse of Bangali immigrants. Brick Lane combines the wide scope of a social novel about the struggles of Muslim immigrants in England with the intimate story of Nazneen, one of the more memorable heroines to come along in a long time. If Dickens or Trollope were loosed upon contemporary London, this is exactly the sort of novel they would cook up.




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