Secret Histories (John Murray Rs 1,055) is Emma Larkin&rsquos account of her travel in Myanmar, which was structured around the life and writings of its most famous 20th-century exponent, George Orwell&mdashat that time the young and complicated Eric Blair&mdashofficer of the crown, anti-colonialist, observer, and dark prophet. Larkin reads his 1984, Burmese Days and other writings, finding chilling parallels in Burma today. Larkin uses her ostensible project&mdashtracking Orwell&rsquos time in Burma&mdashto fuel her other, more important interest to find in teahouse conversations across Rangoon, Mandalay, Moulmein, Katha and the Delta, the stories of ordinary Burmese citizens who live with the daily horrors of the military junta. She talks to serving boys, writers, political prisoners, historians and Anglo-Burmese relics sometimes obliquely, sometimes with open rage or despair, they tell her what they cannot tell even each other. This is a sociopolitical tract-cum-literary thesis in the attractive garb of a travelogue&mdashif you are even remotely interested in either Burma or George Orwell, it&rsquos a must-buy.