The GuardianThe Guardian

Babel: the BookTok sensation that melds dark academia with a post-colonial critique

By Rafqa Touma

08 Sep 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Book Tok is the reading corner of TikTok that has amassed more than 70bn views. GenZ is spiking sales in romance books from a decade ago—but this new release is the latest viral moment.

A boy lies still beside the body of his mother. Her skin is blue and her eyes are open, wet and glassy. It is 1828, and a cholera epidemic has swept through Canton, China.

The boy is the only one left alive in the house and is on the brink of death when a quiet white Englishman brings him to London. There, the young Chinese boy is named Robert Swift and grows up in solitude, trained in English, Latin, ancient Greek and Chinese. For what reason, he does not yet know.

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