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Fiction Multiple Timelines

The Book of Secrets

by (author) M.G. Vassanji

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Oct 1997
Multiple Timelines, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 1997
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 1996
    List Price

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The Book of Secrets is a spellbinding novel of generations and the sweep of history that begins in 1988 in Dar es Salaam, when the 1913 diary of a British colonial officer is found in a shopkeeper's back room. The diary enflames the curiosity of a retired schoolteacher, Pius Fernandes, whose obsession with the stories it contains gradually connects the past with the present. Inhabiting the story is a memorable cast of characters, part of an Asian community in East Africa, whose lives and fates we follow over the course of seven decades. Rich in detail and description, M. G. Vassanji's award-winning novel magnificently conjures setting and the realm of eras past as it explores the state of living in exile from one's home and from oneself.

About the author

M.G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. He attended university in the United States, where he trained as a nuclear physicist, before coming to Canada in 1978. Vassanji is the author of six novels and two collections of short stories. His work has appeared in various countries and several languages, and he has twice won the Giller Prize. His most recent novel, The Assassin’s Song, was shortlisted for both the Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Award. He is a member of the Order of Canada and lives in Toronto.

M.G. Vassanji's profile page


  • Winner, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Editorial Reviews

   • "Part generational history, part detective story, part social chronicle, the novel is a 'living tapestry to join the past to the present.'" -- Giller Prize jury citation, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, and David Staines

   • "Fact and fiction are melded into a compelling narrative which transcends reality and nourishes both mind and spirit. . . . [Vassanji] captures both the minute ripples of individual human motivations and the broad sweep of that grim machine we call history." -- Ottawa Citizen

   • "Vassanji captures a wide and authentic perspective that ranks with V. S. Naipaul and Graham Greene. -- The Times

   • "A vivid portrait of time and place." -- Montreal Gazette

   • "A love affair with the exquisite, tender, and possibly great novel." -- The New Yorker

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