One thing I wanted to do this year, which I haven’t really managed, is to read more novels from other cultures. Perhaps that’s something I can pick up again in the New Year. I want to use fiction as a way to understand how people from other parts of the world think; the principles they live by; and the challenges they face. And, more than that, I hope to find further proof for my belief that we are all, fundamentally, much the same, no matter where we come from. No matter the language we speak, the faith we follow or the colour of our skin, there are certain common experiences that affect us all. Hope, ambition, fear, loss, and love above all. This novella by the celebrated Kyrgyz author Chingiz Aïtmatov, who died in 2008, focuses in on this last, for a brief but beautiful story of star-crossed lovers in the shadow of the steppes.