Review: Babel by RF Kuang

Babel, Or The Necessity of Violence. An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution.

Audiobook read by Chris Lew Kum Hoi and Billie Fulfprd Brown.

Babel is an extraordinary book, a rich and deeply personal story. Robin Swift, taken from his native Canton and the arms of his dead mother, moulded into a facsimile of early Victorian English gentry, educated to that most elite status of Oxford scholar and silver-scribing magician, yet forever foreign, outcast and—ultimately—alone, lives in a poor translation of the life he aspires to. As he learns to speak the language of empire and colonialism more fluently, he takes a stand against those who would use him to help dominate the world in ways that are both beautiful and terrible. His is a story of exile, of found family, of terrible betrayal and soaring magic. Fans of Pullman, Susanna Clarke, HG Parry, Alix Harrow and Jeanette Ng will love this book. It’s a towering success (pardon the pun).

Chris Lew Kum Hoi’s performance of the audiobook is simply sublime, his characterisations are compelling and full of emotion and his delivery is so smooth and lyrical that the boom flew in. Billie Fulford-Brown delivers the footnotes with calm assurance, but injects wry humour and arch intonation to remind you that these notes are no flat commentary. I adored their reading of the text and would happily listen to them again.

Delighted to have had this audiobook shared with me by HarperCollins UK, I can heartily recommend it to everyone

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