‘Babel’ – R.F. Kuang

I don’t mind admitting that it took me over a year to get round to this. It looked daunting, and I really wanted to make sure I was in the right frame of mind to settle into it. Having just finished, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.

Babel focuses on young Robin Swift, an orphan from Canton, who is taken to England as a child under the guardianship of Professor Richard Lovell. He is educated in Latin and Greek, given a home and looked after…but be under no illusion – he is a commodity. Robin, who believes himself to be Lovell’s son, is effectively being trained to master languages so that he can take his place at Oxford and go to work in Babel, the library that effectively runs the country with the scholars’ ability to translate texts and work with silver.

From the moment he enters its hallowed halls, Robin loves Oxford. However, over the course of his studies – and witness to the way he and the other students in his year are treated – Robin comes to detest what Babel represents and is determined to find a way to challenge the colonial attitudes taken for granted by those around him.

For such a hefty book, I was surprised by how absorbing I found this. I don’t want to give any more details about the story, but it was the kind of book that will stick with me long after reading.