Annal: 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1994.

Book:Remembering Babylon

Remembering Babylon

David Malouf

In Remembering Babylon David Malouf gives us a rich and compelling novel, in language of astonishing poise and resonance, about the settling of the continent down under, Australia, and the vicissitudes of first contact with the unknown. In the mid-1840s a thirteen-year-old cabin boy, Gemmy Fairley, is cast ashore from a British shipwreck onto the Queensland coast, and is taken in by aborigines. Sixteen years later, three children from a white settlement come upon this apparition: “The stick-like legs, all knobbed at the joints, suggested a wounded waterbird, a brolga, or a human that in the manner of the tales they told one another, all spells and curses, had been changed into a bird, but only halfway, and now, neither one thing nor the other, was hopping and flapping towards them out of a world over there, beyond the no-mans-land of the swamps…of nightmare rumours, superstitions and all that belonged to Absolute Dark.” …[more]

Book:Holder of the World

Holder of the World: A Novel

Bharati Mukherjee

This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, “a person undreamed of in Puritan society.” Inquisitive, vital and awake to her own possibilities, Hannah travels to Mughal, India, with her husband, and English trader. There, she sets her own course, “translating” herself into the Salem Bibi, the white lover of a Hindu raja.

It is also the story of Beigh Masters, born in New England in the mid-twentieth century, an “asset hunter” who stumbles on the scattered record of her distant relative’s life while tracking a legendary diamond. As Beigh pieces together details of Hannah’s journeys, she finds herself drawn into the most intimate and spellbinding fabric of that remote life, confirming her belief that with “sufficient passion and intelligence, we can decontrsuct the barriers of time and geography….”

Book:The Rifles

The Rifles: Volume 6 of the Seven Dreams sequence

William T. Vollmann

The Rifles establishes more firmly than ever before that William Vollmann is, in the words of the The Washington Post, “the most prodigiously talented and historically important American novelist under thirty-five.” This work, the sixth in Vollmann’s projected seven-novel cycle examining the clash of native Americans and their European colonizers, is at once a gripping tale of adventure, a contemporary love story, and a chronicle of the ongoing destruction of Inuit lifeways.

It is one hundred and fifty years ago. Our continent has been mapped east, west, and south, but the white explorers who hope to discover the Northwest Passage have found only ice and death. Sir John Franklin—cheerful, determined, and dangerously rigid—sets out to complete the Passage with hundreds of men and supplies for three years. This is the third Arctic expedition he has commanded; on both of the others he has defied the warnings of the Inuit and Indians he’s encountered along the way. This time…[more]

Book:The Soloist

The Soloist

Mark Salzman

As a child, Renne showed promise of becoming one of the world’s greatest cellists. Now, years later, his life suddenly is altered by two events: he becomes a juror in a murder trial for the brutal killing of a Buddhist monk, and he takes on as a pupil a Korean boy whose brilliant musicianship reminds him of his own past.

Book:While England Sleeps

While England Sleeps

David Leavitt

Set against the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe, While England Sleeps tells the story of a love affair between the aristocratic young British writer Brian Botsford, who thinks homosexuality is something he will outgrow, and Edward Phelan, a sensitive and idealistic working-class employee of the London Underground and a Communist party member. When the strains of class difference, sexual taboo, and Brian’s ambivalence impel Edward to volunteer to fight against Franco in Spain, Brian pursues him across Europe and into the violent chaos of war.

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