November Publications

The Western idea of exoticism is turned upside down in A Girl from Zanzibar, a cool, cosmopolitan novel by Roger King (Sea Level, etc.). Marcella D'Souza, a "Goan Indian Portuguese Arab African of Catholic Moslem parentage," displays early entrepreneurial talent, running a small taxi business and then an ice cream stand with her aunt in Zanzibar. She soon seizes the chance to move to London, where she parlays her skills into a small real estate empire and becomes involved with Benji, a Singaporean Indian who hatches grand, shady international schemes. An unfortunate encounter lands Marcella in jail for eight years, and when she gets out she wangles herself a job as an associate professor of Multicultural Studies at a small college in Vermont. From this college she reflects on the odd twists and turnings of her life, the strangest perhaps being her sojourn in snowy, peaceful—and yes, exotic—Vermont. (Books & Co./Helen Marx, $14.95 paper 320p ISBN 1-885586-60-4)

The gritty intimacies of everyday middle-class life in England flesh out a larger story of race and resentment in Maggie Gee's The White Family, shortlisted for Britain's Orange Prize. Alfred White has been park keeper at Albion Park for nearly 50 years when he collapses and is taken to the hospital. As his family gathers around him, their individual histories are revealed: son Darren is a very successful and rather superficial journalist; daughter Shirley, to her father's disgust, lives with a black man; son Dirk is a budding skinhead. Their mother, May, tries desperately to hold the family together, despite the odds. A violent attack shows how strong racial hatred can be, but also serves as an emotional release for some of the novel's tormented characters. Gee's graceful, nuanced family portrait is well framed by her take on racial tensions in late 20th-century England. (St. Martin's/Saqi, $24.95 416p ISBN 0-86356-380-5)