Loot: A novel
LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN FICTION • A spellbinding historical novel set in the eighteenth century: a hero’s quest, a love story, the story of a young artist coming of age, and an exuberant heist adventure that traces the bloody legacy of colonialism across two continents and fifty years.
A Best Book of the Year: The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Kirkus Reviews
“Addictively absorbing.” —The New York Times Book Review
This wildly inventive, irresistible feat of storytelling from a writer at the height of her powers is "an expertly-plotted, deeply affecting novel about war, displacement, emigration, and an elusive mechanical tiger" (Maggie O’Farrell, best-selling author of Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait).
Abbas is just seventeen years old when his gifts as a woodcarver come to the attention of Tipu Sultan, and he is drawn into service at the palace in order to build a giant tiger automaton for Tipu’s sons, a gift to commemorate their return from British captivity. His fate—and the fate of the wooden tiger he helps create—will mirror the vicissitudes of nations and dynasties ravaged by war across India and Europe.
Working alongside the legendary French clockmaker Lucien du Leze, Abbas hones his craft, learns French, and meets Jehanne, the daughter of a French expatriate. When Du Leze is finally permitted to return home to Rouen, he invites Abbas to come along as his apprentice. But by the time Abbas travels to Europe, Tipu’s palace has been looted by British forces, and the tiger automaton has disappeared. To prove himself, Abbas must retrieve the tiger from an estate in the English countryside, where it is displayed in a collection of plundered art.
Praise for Loot: A novel
A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: Bustle, Elle, Publishers Weekly
“Captivating . . . James is a master miniaturist who can create the illusion of a saga in a chapter. And she’s not afraid to radically reset the novel’s place and tone. Her pages feel as full as a 19th-century bildungsroman, with collapsing kingdoms, sailing ships and elaborate schemes . . . And her prose is lush with the sights, sounds and smells of India, France and England, and always laced with Dickensian wit.” —The Washington Post
“Addictively absorbing.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Loot is lovingly drawn and compulsively readable, with all the pleasures and detail of stellar historical fiction.” —Vulture
“Spanning 50 years and two continents, this rich, compelling novel offers an unflinching look at the violence of imperialism.” —People Magazine
“James’s ravishing prose and trademark blend of lyricism and suspense animate this ingenious caper meets politically acute coming-of-age story.” —Oprah Daily
"Loot held me spellbound from the first page. This is an expertly-plotted, deeply affecting novel about war, displacement, emigration, and an elusive mechanical tiger.” —Maggie O’Farrell, author of Hamnet
"Spectacular . . . There’s an unceasing exuberance to the prose, and James’s descriptions are endlessly witty . . . Rarely is a novel so dense with painful themes also such fun. At once swashbuckling and searing, this is a marvelous achievement." —Publishers Weekly [starred review]
“Steeped in the rich history of three nations and infused with a young man’s unshakable desire to do something grand, Loot is transportive storytelling at its best . . . James’ plot is brilliant and unique, her creative liberties mixing well with the historical realities of colonialism and migration. Her supporting characters are woven with the same care and detail as her protagonist. All of this combines for a stimulating and informative novel, a must-read for adventurers, dreamers and lovers of history.” —BookPage [starred review]
“A rich, sprawling, picaresque historical novel . . . James weaves a lustrous tale of intrigue and survival, cunning and romance.” —Booklist [starred review]
"Lively and symbolically rich . . . A smart, sharp tale, as well crafted as the object at its center . . . [James’s] prose is fleet and rich in ironic humor . . . Loot, as the title hints, is an engaging reminder that today’s museum pieces are often functions of forgotten exploitation and theft." —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
"I read Loot in a single sitting; it is a wild, dazzling eighteenth-century romp across continents with profound things to say about invention and self-reinvention, class and fate, and the deeply human hunger to create family as both bulwark against loneliness and constant source of light and warmth.” —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies
"Loot is a feast—a hugely fun novel with a delicious plot that offers delights and profundities in equal measure. Each chapter of this sprint across the world serves stunning truths about circumstance and ambition, love and sacrifice, and the fickleness of victory. I devoured this book, and remain in awe of what Tania James has created." —Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning
"A novel of wonder and terror and beauty — I was completely captivated by it.” —Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire
"Loot is the most transporting and absorbing novel I've read in ages—a rich tapestry of an epic, thrilling at every turn. This isn't just brilliant writing: It's storytelling of the highest order." —Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
“A luminous novel of history that explores the far reaches of empire and of human desire, of love, greed, betrayal, and possible redemption. In this genuine page-turner, Tania James does the seemingly impossible: not only does she breathe life into charismatic characters, she repeats the feat with automatons, for crying out loud. Tipu’s Tiger might be a stolen artifact in a British museum, but you can hear its roar in these pages. Loot is a historical story that bristles with contemporary urgency.” —Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman