Financial Review (Australia): Best Books of 2017

By Nicole Abadee

PACHINKO was selected as one of 7 Fiction titles of the FINANCIAL REVIEW (Australia), the news website of the year.

  1. The Choke, Sofie Laguna, Allen & Unwin

The perfect title for a book that seizes you by the throat from its opening pages and never lets go. Laguna won the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award for The Eye of the Sheep, her first adult novel, and this one is even better. Thirteen-year-old Justine Lee has been abandoned by her parents and raised by her tough-as-nails grandfather. A visit from her criminal father wreaks havoc on her troubled life. As brave and memorable a heroine as any in Australian literature. Raw, real, heartbreaking.

  1. Pachinko, Min Jin Lee, Apollo

Pachinko is a popular Japanese game of chance – a metaphor for life itself, as American-Korean writer Min Jin Lee suggests in her second novel, a sprawling family saga about Koreans living in Japan, set over eight decades. The central character, Sunja, falls pregnant as a teenager to a married man, with consequences that reverberate through the generations. Lee’s depiction of the alienation and discrimination suffered by Koreans in Japan is symbolic of the migrant experience everywhere. Gripping.

  1. A State of Freedom,  Neel Mukherjee, Chatto & Windus

Calcutta-born Mukherjee writes unflinchingly and with deep compassion of India and its people – those trying to escape lives of grinding poverty and those who have done so, and who feel pangs of educated-liberal guilt when they return. This is the third book by Mukherjee – whose previous work, The Lives of Others, was short-listed for the Man Booker – and it deals powerfully with issues ranging from familial love to modern slavery, workplace safety and revolutionary politics. Quietly devastating.

  1. The Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Cape

Rushdie’s brilliant latest novel has it all – love, betrayal, revenge, lust, politics and death. Set in modern Manhattan, it tells the tragi-comic story of Nero Golden, a wealthy immigrant, and his three sons, and features a maniacal businessman – a “cackling cartoon narcissist” – who becomes president. Rich in allusions to Greek mythology, pop culture, ancient philosophy and literature, it tackles big issues such as the nature of good and evil. Audacious, angry and funny, this is vintage Rushdie.

  1. Home Fire,  Kamila Shamsie, Bloomsbury

This electrifying novel is a modern take on Sophocles’ masterpiece Antigone. In this version Parvaiz, a young British Muslim, goes to fight with ISIS in Syria, leaving his two sisters, Isma and Aneeka, in London to deal with the fallout. His fate lies in the hands of the hardline British Home Secretary, whose son is Aneeka’s lover. A page-turning story of a clash between the individual and the state, morality and law, and romantic love and familial duty. Fiendishly clever and very timely.

  1. The Animators,  Kayla Rae Whitaker, Scribe

Not since Thelma and Louise has there been such a feisty couple of women friends. Sharon and Mel meet in college and share a passion for cartoons. Soon they are working together as animators and what follows is a roller-coaster ride as their work and personal lives become inextricably linked. There is heartbreak and tragedy, as well as razor-sharp wit, as Whitaker explores the dark side of creativity and obsession, and of friendship and love. Unforgettable.

  1. Tin Man, Sarah Winman,  Hachette Australia

The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz was lacking a heart, but English author Winman’s third book most definitely is not. Set in Oxford, London, and the south of France, it centres on the complex relationship between Michael and Ellis, friends since childhood. When Ellis marries Annie things change. A recurring motif is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and the optimism and hope that it symbolises. A jewel of a book about grief, regret, heartbreak and longing.