Cao Wenxuan, Helen Wang
A family saga spanning fifty years and three generations, which takes the reader from the France of the Golden Age to poverty-stricken post-war Shanghai via the re-imagined rural China of the Cultural Revolution.
Ah-Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai, share a rare bond. Maybe because Ah-Mei is the only girl grandchild, or maybe because the pair look so alike – and because neither look much like the rest of their Chinese family. Politics and war make 1960s Shanghai a hard place to grow up, especially when racism and bigotry are rife, and everyone is suspicious of Nainai’s European heritage. Ah-Mei and her family suffer much in this time of political upheaval, and when the family silk business falters, they are left with almost nothing. But Ah-Mei and her grandmother are resourceful, and they have one another – and the tenderness they share brings them great strength.
Cao Wenxuan has a lush, lyrical style which is beautifully translated by Helen Wang (anyone who has read Bronze and Sunflower will know what I mean) and I was lulled by the sweetness of the beginning into thinking that it was really intended for younger readers. But with the 1960s, life gets darker and more complex for Ah-Mei: society disintegrates around the family, Nainai is attacked simply for being foreign, and the story ends with what might be a natural death or might be suicide. Enthralling. -- Nicky Harman * Asian Book Blog * Featured in The Bookseller's January Previews 2021, * The Bookseller *
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