Babel by R F Kuang

I just finished Babel a few days ago, and whilst this is not going to be a full review of the book, I did want to recommend it to you as a book well worth the read.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not, on the whole, enjoy fiction. I am a non-fiction girl all the way. However, occasionally I like to branch out, and travelling to and from Northern Ireland in a car for hours was the perfect time for a story.

Babel is a hefty 21 hours of listening time. Most books tend to be around the 12 hour mark, so this was almost double.

Kuang is a fabulous writer who makes 21 hours seem like much less and, in fact, left me wanting more.

Babel is based on an Oxford translation department, called Babel. The linguistic students are bred for their particular mother tongue to forward the colonisation of Great Britain throughout the world. I would say the author writes with an obvious bias against white British people, which could grate on you if you were that way inclined. I am not so I was unaffected by this.

The students basically revolt against this attack on their homeland and do all they can to prevent Britain, linguistically speaking, taking over the world.

I honestly can’t recommend this enough. It is full of intellectual writing, and in each session of listening I came away learning something new. Whether that learning was about the historical period in which it was set (1800s), the incredible language links between cultures and time, or just some observation of the world that the author makes.

I felt at times that I was learning more from this fiction book than I ever would have from a non-fiction book about the same topic.

When I finished Babel I felt a little bereft. I missed the characters because in some small way they had become my friends, and suddenly they were gone.

So yesterday, I bought myself The Poppy War by the same author, which I am enjoying just as much.

There were two things I wasn’t so keen on – as already mentioned, there was a fairly unbalanced view of all British white being inherently bad, and every foreign person being inherently good. However, this was perhaps necessary to the story line. The second thing was that the magical element seemed superfluous to the story, except perhaps at the very end. But that may be a personal thing because fantasy is definitely one of my least favourite genres.

These two things aside, I think this might be the best book I’ve read/listened to this year. I really do recommend it to anyone who likes a good book to sink their teeth into.