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Historical Dictionary of Bangladesh
by Craig Baxter and Syedur Rahman. Vison Books, Delhi. Pages xviii+308. Rs 595.

The book spans the country’s periods under various regimes, its incorporation into India and Pakistan, and then from 1971its identity as an independent country. The book contains hundreds of entries, in an easy-to-refer A-to-Z format, spanning Bangladesh’s history, politics, economy, society, its religious traditions, culture and the country’s important people in a succinct and balanced manner. An esxtensive bibliography offers further guidance for those seeking to explore different aspects of Bangladesh in greater detail. It offers both solid background and a perspective for a better understanding of a country which remains one of the poorest in the world and one where an embattled democracy and a tenuous market economy are struggling to take root.

Animal Crackers
by Hannah Tinti. Review. Pages 246. £ 34.25.

A zoo worker, cautiously washing down Marysue the elephant, considers the odd, grim fragments he’s heard about his co-workers’ lives. Giraffes demand better living conditions from their keeper and stage a mock suicide group. A headstrong young woman in post-colonial Africa is lured by the freedom of the monkeys in the trees; a boy plays chilling games with his pet rabbit; a pompous husband projects his anger at his wife on to her prized rooster.

Strange, funny and unnerving, these stories offer a modern look at the myths and fantasies which link the animal kingdom with the human. Hannah Tinti is the editor of One Story magazine.

The Optimists
by Andrew Miller. Sceptre, London. Pages 313. £ 36.90

When Clem Glass, an experienced photo-journalist, witnesses the grotesque aftermath of a genocidal massacre in central Africa, it is more than he can bear. He returns to London with his faith in humanity shattered, his life derailed.

Gradually his outlook is undermined by what he observes around him: the kindness of an elderly aunt, the perplexed sincerity of his father, the joyful love between his cousin and her fianc`E9.

Miller explores how we act in a world where cruelty coexists with compassion, and the line between optimism and self-delusion remains perilously thin.

The Mahabharata
by Meera Uberoi. Penguin. Pages 472. Rs 300.

Meera Uberoi has retold this epic tale of love and hatred, joy and sorrow, pride and endurance, with great lucidity. Heroes and villains, kings and queens all come alive through her use of the modern idiom. Weaving the metaphors, similes and allegories of the original into the main narrative, Uberoi makes the lessons of the Mahabharata more relevant than ever to the modern reader.

Septimus Heap (Book I): Magyk
by Angie Sage. Bloomsbury. Pages 564. Penguin India price £ 4.99

An extraordinary wizard mysteriously resigns. A young queen is taken ill. A baby boy disappears. A baby girl is rescued from a snowy path in the woods. And all on the same night. A string of events, unconnected, come together ten years later, when the Heap family receive a knock at the door. The evil necromancer DomDaniel is plotting his comeback and a major obstacle resides in the Heap family. Life as they know it is about to change, and Magyk and Mayhem begin.

by David Gibbins. Headline. Pages 337. £ 3 6.00

While diving for an Homeric shipwreck in the Mediterranean, marine archaeologist Jack Howard’s team uncovers what could be the key to the location of the lost city. Armed with only this, and his highly regarded expertise, Jack sets out to find what others have searched for, over thousands of years. He is on the verge of making an astounding breakthrough — one that will lay to rest the demons that have come to haunt him. But someone else knows about Atlantis’s location... and Jack and those closest to him are suddenly locked in a life or death game.