The Book Of Secrets

Paperback | October 11, 1997

byM.g. Vassanji

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The Book of Secrets is a spellbinding novel of generations and the sweep of history that begins in 1988 in Dar es Salaam, when the 1913 diary of a British colonial officer is found in a shopkeeper's back room. The diary enflames the curiosity of a retired schoolteacher, Pius Fernandes, whose obsession with the stories it contains gradually connects the past with the present. Inhabiting the story is a memorable cast of characters, part of an Asian community in East Africa, whose lives and fates we follow over the course of seven decades. Rich in detail and description, M. G. Vassanji's award-winning novel magnificently conjures setting and the realm of eras past as it explores the state of living in exile from one's home and from oneself.

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From Our Editors

Dar es Salaam, 1988. A 75-year-old British colonial officer's diary shows up in a shopkeeper's back room. Retired schoolteacher Pius Fernandes becomes obsessed with its contents. Past becomes present as we follow the lives and fates of a colourful East African Asian community over seven decades. Winner of the Giller Prize, The Book of ...

From the Publisher

The Book of Secrets is a spellbinding novel of generations and the sweep of history that begins in 1988 in Dar es Salaam, when the 1913 diary of a British colonial officer is found in a shopkeeper's back room. The diary enflames the curiosity of a retired schoolteacher, Pius Fernandes, whose obsession with the stories it contains gradu...

M.G. VASSANJI is the author of seven novels, two collections of short stories, and two works of non-fiction. He has won the Giller Prize twice for The Book of Secrets and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, and the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction for A Place Within: Rediscovering India. His other novels include The G...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.32 × 5.44 × 0.67 inPublished:October 11, 1997Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0771087217

ISBN - 13:9780771087219

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Conversation with the Past The book won the Giller Prize back in 1996 or 1997. I think one of the most interesting parts is the mixing of cultures; the British colonialists, the native Africans, and the Indians. I find the story so real that it's more of a memoir than fiction. The novel is strongly based on storytelling, and how the past is viewed and remembered through various viewpoints. I'm really unsure where it was set, since Uganda and British East Africa don't appear anywhere on my maps... so the story takes on a surreal quality. I think this is fitting, because the mysticism of those cultures combined with the unknown of the African continent (at least at that point in time) match the main theme. I feel like I've been having a conversation with an historian while sitting around a campfire in the middle of the wilderness.
Date published: 2006-06-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic Historical Romance This book was a selection for my book club, and although most of the rest of my club had a lukewarm reaction, I thought The Book of Secrets was a fantastic read. The book echoes the patchwork nature of history by presenting its story of Colonial Africa via a mixed set of formats (a diary, letters, straight narration) and a series of "main" characters whose lives touch each other through history. The period setting is perfectly captured and the characters are vivid -- they all stayed with me for days afterward. The plot as well is gripping, and I lost some sleep because I couldn't put the book down. Although the story does leave a few loose ends, in the end the beauty of the characters and the sweet commentary on the nature of history will leave you with a warm feeling. If you enjoyed The English Patient, this book is for you.
Date published: 2000-07-18

Extra Content

From Our Editors

Dar es Salaam, 1988. A 75-year-old British colonial officer's diary shows up in a shopkeeper's back room. Retired schoolteacher Pius Fernandes becomes obsessed with its contents. Past becomes present as we follow the lives and fates of a colourful East African Asian community over seven decades. Winner of the Giller Prize, The Book of Secrets explores the state of living in exile from one's home and oneself.

Editorial Reviews

   • "Part generational history, part detective story, part social chronicle, the novel is a 'living tapestry to join the past to the present.'" -- Giller Prize jury citation, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, and David Staines    • "Fact and fiction are melded into a compelling narrative which transcends reality and nourishes both mind and spirit. . . . [Vassanji] captures both the minute ripples of individual human motivations and the broad sweep of that grim machine we call history." -- Ottawa Citizen    • "Vassanji captures a wide and authentic perspective that ranks with V. S. Naipaul and Graham Greene. -- The Times    • "A vivid portrait of time and place." -- Montreal Gazette    • "A love affair with the past...an exquisite, tender, and possibly great novel." -- The New Yorker