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The Boston Globe

Books

Best fiction books of 2011

To reflect the eclectic tastes of readers, we asked nine critics to pick their 10 favorite books of the year, each starting with the title that they think deserves special attention

Every great book breaks rules. Dwarves, child prodigies, murder victims, they’ve all narrated our treasured classics. And one day Rana Dasgupta’s “Solo’’ will be spoken of with the same hushed reverence. It is a magical, heartbreaking book full of occult wisdom and lyrical grace. A book about how we never stand outside history; and yet how we must see ourselves in that way to live. No one understands this conundrum better than the book’s 100-year-old Bulgarian hero, whose life story consumes the first half of the novel. In the second half, his imagined children carom out of the crumbling Soviet bloc like sparks off a Catherine wheel, and Dasgupta follows their fading arcs. Of living writers only Peter Carey and Rachel Seiffert write as selflessly as Dasgupta. Only David Mitchell seems to take such joy in storytelling. Read it now and marvel at how you thought your life was complete beforehand.

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