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Books on the colonial experience

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Hello there, 


I’m looking for novels with a colonial setting, contemporary novels written by people from that era who would have had some idea of what it was like back then. Preferably British Empire colonialism, but all ideas are welcome. 


To my knowledge I am currently aware of/have read the following books. Please recommend books written by different authors to the ones listed here as I am likely already aware of their other contributions. 


A few of these books (Ceremony, Potiki) bend the truth a little. They aren’t directly about the colonial experience but are about the clash of European and non-European cultures. So I am also open to semi-colonial literature like that too if you can think it’d be a good read. All of them — without exception — are contemporary though, the authors have experienced something like what they wrote about. 


Here’s what I have so far:


  1. A Grain of Wheat, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

  2. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster

  3. Burmese Days, George Orwell

  4. Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

  5. Greenmantle, John Buchan 

  6. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

  7. King Solomon’s Mines, H. Rider Haggard

  8. Kim, Rudyard Kipling 

  9. Potiki, Patricia Grace

  10. Red Strangers, Elspeth Huxley

  11. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

  12. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih

  13. The First Man, Albert Camus

  14. The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing

  15. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe 

  16. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

  17. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys


Thank you!


Edit: unsure why I cannot make the text un-bold. The button doesn't appear to be working. Sorry about this!

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I can't think of any that you don't already have on your list but I did un-bold your text for you :) (you'll be able to edit posts yourself once you have ten posts).

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Hi Neil


I would recommend Staying On by Paul Scott.

This is a post-colonial sequel to Scott’s epic series The Raj Quartet/The Jewel in the Crown. Tusker & Lucy Smalley stayed on in India, after Tuskerk’s retirement as Colonel in the British Army.

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Oscar and Lucinda 

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad 

Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh 


Nostromo was very good. 







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Some more ideas.  Some of these I read a while ago, so whilst I enjoyed them at the time, I may have changed my mind if reading them now!  Some of these are definitely not contemporary, but they may still satisfy. 


Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

A Season in Sinji by JL Carr

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Noble House by James Clavell

Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (one of five Leatherstocking Tales set in colonial North America)

Voyageurs by Margaret Elphinstone

The Singapore Grip by JG Farrell (also The Siege of Krishnapur, although this is rather less contemporary)

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

A Quiet American by Grahame Greene (and others)

The Black Lake by Hella S Haase

The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester

The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz

The Levant Trilogy  by Olivia Manning

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham (and others)

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Black Mischief/Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf


Strictly speaking, I suppose the following are post-colonial, but I think they still say a lot about the colonial world - and they're brilliant books!

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul



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