When our own history stands in the way of who we must be, when the only way forward is to swim against the tide, when we are defined by our family’s place in the world, the weight of history seems to pin us down. In three remarkable novels, unforgettable characters must bear that burden, struggling towards a future of their own making.
Peter Hobbs makes his Festival debut with In the Orchard, The Swallows, a tale of tenderness in the face of great and corrupt power. In the foothills of a mountain range in northern Pakistan is a beautiful orchard. Neglected now, the trees are beginning to grow wild, their fruit left to spoil on the branches. Many miles away, a frail young man is flung out of prison gates. His ravaged body tells the story of fifteen years of brutality. Just one image has held and sustained him through the dark times -- the thought of the young girl who had left him dumbstruck with wonder all those years ago, whose eyes were lit up with life.
“I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.” So begins The Virgin Cure, Ami McKay ’s acclaimed follow up to The Birth House. Set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871, young Moth spends her days wandering the streets of her own and better neighbourhoods, imagining what days are like for the wealthy women whose grand yet forbidding gardens she slips through when no one’s looking. Yet every night Moth must return to the disease- and grief-ridden tenement she calls home. Still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There’s a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.
From Vincent Lam, winner of the Giller Prize for Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, comes The Headmaster’s Wager, a highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting novel set against the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. But when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities and the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.