Damon Galgut - Arctic Summer (4 stars)

Damon Galgut - Arctic Summer

An absorbing and sophisticated fictional biography of EM Forster, set around the time of A Passage to India

It's been 90 years since EM Forster – the author of classics A Room with a View and Howards End – published his final novel. Yet he remains one of the most influential and best-loved writers in the English language. Damon Galgut's new novel looks at the events that inspired A Passage to India, Forster's last and best-loved book.

Arctic Summer – named after Forster's unfinished book – is a meticulously researched fictional biography. Galgut, who's twice been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, writes with deep affection for the author: from grappling with his homosexuality to his first visit to India to his wartime post in Alexandria, the story unfolds in vivid and unromantic detail and the meditative prose deliberately echoes some of A Passage to India's most memorable lines.

Most touching is Galgut's realisation of Forster's friendship with Syed Ross Masood, to whom A Passage to India is dedicated. Their profound – but profoundly different – love for one another carries Arctic Summer to its moving conclusion. Whether you're a fan of Forster or not, this is an absorbing story told with perceptive sophistication by a terrific writer.

Published by Atlantic Books on Thu 6 Mar.

Writing the Commonwealth

This year, Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize: the longest ever winning book by the youngest ever author. At the same time, the Man Booker opened up to writers outside of the Commonwealth. In this event, Catton joins Kamila Shamsie and Damon Galgut to discuss whether the Commonwealth means anything in literature…

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