Review: R. F. Kuang's BABEL.
Thanks to Partner @bibliolifestyle for the complimentary finished copy . All opinions provided are my own.
R. F. Kuang’s Babel roped me in from the first striking line & left me with my jaw gaping. I really didn’t know what was coming, particularly in the ending.
When he’s 11, a young boy dying of a disease that’s already killed everyone he lives with is rescued by a mysterious British man named Professor Lovell. The professor works at Babel, in Oxford, a magical & inspiring place to so many who study language & translation there, & a place that literally helps Britain, that behemoth, keep its Empire working.
Lovell tells the boy he must change his name, & he does, to Robin Swift. What follows is Robin’s experience at Babel as someone who is of Chinese & British ancestry (we are given lots of hints about his paternity) & from Canton, China but living in Oxford.
Kuang plays those tensions so beautifully & grippingly, showing how Robin wants to be included in this Britain juxtaposed with how others view him, and his longing for acceptance and approval and from whom.
The storytelling is quiet & powerful & I quickly became invested but the ending left me a bit confused about what I’m supposed to take away from Robin’s story, his decisions, & his motivations. It left me thinking about his journey throughout the book. Maybe that’s a good thing but I guess I wanted the comfort of something more clear cut.
4⭐️. Out now.
ID: a white woman wearing a salmon colored skirt holds a copy of the book above a wooden table. To the upper right is a white pot; to the left is a sliver of tan curtains.
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