A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
Set in India. With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers -- a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village -- will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
by Ian McEwan
In this rich novel by the author of the Booker Prize-winning novel "Amsterdam, " a young girl unwittingly tells a tale that turns her family upside down. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, "Atonement" is at its center a profound -- and profoundly moving -- exploration of shame and forgiveness, of atonement and the difficulty of absolution.
by Ann Patchett
Set in South America. At the home of the country's vice president, a birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.
by Joanne Harris
Set in France. The townspeople of Les Salants say that if you kiss the feet of their patron saint and spit three times, something you've lost will come back to you. And so Madeleine, who grew up on the island, returns after an absence of ten years spent in Paris. She is haunted by this place, and has never been able to feel at home anywhere else. Madeleine has been adrift for a long time, yet almost against her will she soon finds herself united with the village's other lost souls is a struggle for survival and salvation.
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden
Set in Japan. Sayuri's story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Through her eyes, we see the decadent heart of Gion -- the geisha district of Kyoto. And we witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it.
by Soheir Khashoggi
Set in Egypt. Born a humble servant girl on a plantation owned by a wealthy British family, Karima Ismail never imagined how far her dreams would take her. Although her doomed love for her employer's handsome son ends in tragedy, their brief romance leaves her with a daughter who is the joy of her life. Set against five decades of turbulent Middle Eastern history, from World War II to the first Gulf War, "Nadia's Song" is a moving saga of mothers and daughters and the unbreakable bond between them.
Queen of the South
by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Set in Mexico. "The Queen of the South" spans continents, from the dusty streets of Mexico to the sparkling waters off the coast of Morocco, to Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar. It is a sweeping story set to the irresistible beat of the drug smugglers' ballads, it encompasses sensuality and cruelty, love and betrayal, as its heroine's story unfolds.
Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz-Zafon
Set in Spain. Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a book from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the book he selects, a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written.
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Set in Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant, is a Hazara -- a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.
The Magic Mountain
by Thomas Mann
Set in Germany. In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps -- a community devoted exclusively to sickness -- as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality.
by Nora Roberts
Set in Italy. As a savvy businesswoman, Sophia Giambelli knows she must be prepared for anything . . . but she isn't prepared for Tyler MacMillan. They've been ordered to work together very closely, to facilitate a merger between their two companies. Sophia must teach Ty the finer points of marketing -- and Ty, in turn, shows her how to get down and dirty, to use the sun, rain, and earth to coax the sweetest grapes from the vineyard. As they toil together, both in and out of the fields, Sophia is torn between a powerful attraction and a professional rivalry.
The Winter Queen
by Boris Akunin
Set in Russia. What would cause a talented young student from a wealthy family to shoot himself in front of a promenading public in the Alexander Gardens? Decadence and boredom, most likely, is what the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Police thinks, but still he finds it curious enough to send the newest member of the division, Erast Fandorin, to the Alexander Gardens precinct for more information. Fandorin is not satisfied with the conclusion that this is an open-and-shut case, nor with the preliminary detective work the precinct has done -- and for good reason: The bizarre and tragic suicide is soon connected to a clear case of murder, witnessed firsthand by Fandorin.