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As the Earth Turns Silver
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As the Earth Turns Silver

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  282 ratings  ·  64 reviews
This title is winner of the Janet Frame Fiction Award 2009. It is the early 1900s and brothers Yung and Shun, immigrants from China, eke out a living as greengrocers in Wellington. The pair must support their families back home, but know they must adapt if they are to survive and prosper in their adopted home. Meanwhile, Katherine McKechnie struggles to raise her rebelliou ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 29th 2009 by Penguin Books (NZ) (first published 2009)
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Sweetp-1
I read this as part of a read-along in the Book Loving Kiwis group. It is perhaps not something I would have picked out for myself, but a novel that I very much enjoyed.

The author's ancestors were early Chinese settlers in New Zealand, and while the book is a work of fiction, she has obviously done quite a bit of research about the time period (1905-1920)in order to recapture the atmosphere of a pre-WW1 Wellington. Very evocative of the time period - from the descriptions of the clothing, the li
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Kathleen Dixon
It's hard not to feel ashamed of one's ancestors when our racist past is laid bare. My mother's paternal family were Wellington residents a century ago and I don't imagine they were any different to the majority of white New Zealanders of the time. But if I were to feel shame, then I'd hope that every single person in the world would also feel shame for his and her ancestors, because nobody has been exempt. So I push those feelings aside (with a little note to self to make sure I continue to sta ...more
Debbie
This novel is set in my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, and spans the years 1905-1922. Two very different families find their lives intertwined with tragic results.

Two Chinese brothers are eking out an existence as fruiterers. They work long hours in a society that regards them, at best as second class citizens, at worst as a kind of animal. Struggling with English and ostracised by white New Zealanders, their lives are centred on the almost all-male Chinese community of Haining Street.

Won
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Sara W
NZ author Alison Wong tells a tale of Wellington in the early 1900s, where xenophobia of the Chinese meant that a European woman who had a baby to a Chinese man could be put in a mental hospital. The book is gloriously researched, setting the taste and smell and feel of Tory St and Haning St and Courtney Place with the trams and horse-carts and grocer shops and opium dens. Even better when you live in the 'Chinese triangle' as I do, and its an area of the city that is still crowded with Chinese ...more
DubaiReader
Strong characterisations.

This book had a quite unique feel about it; almost resembling the sort of jerkiness between words in the sound of the Chinese language. Perhaps I should describe it as a sticcato feel. The chapters were short and to the point, although I found the first few chapters extremely difficult to get into.
There isn't much plot, or, at least, the plot is almost totally revealed in the synopsis, so the book is left to rely heavily on the characters. Fortunately they are well drawn
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Sally906
This is a debut novel for author Alison Wong. Set in Wellington New Zealand in the early twentieth-century it AS THE EARTH TURNS SILVER follows the intersecting lives of two people from two different cultures amid a time when racist policies were being presented to the New Zealand parliament. Chung Yung is a Chinese immigrant who helps his older brother run a fruit and vegetable shop in order to support their families back in China. Katherine McKechnie is struggling to raise two young children a ...more
Alumine Andrew
In the middle of our dreary grey winter I wanted a book to curl up with in front of the fire and be taken into a different world...I picked up this book and loved it from the first chapter.
The story is set in Wellington,New Zealand, from the late nineteenth century to the 1920's. Some chapters dash back to China to give background to the Chinese characters.

The writing is clear and the language handled in such a way that it's very easy to see the characters and the Wellington described.
The main c
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Kate
I have been wanting to read this for a while so was delighted when it was this months book club read. I was under the impression from things written about it when it was awarded best NZ fiction award in 2010 that it was about the early Chinese immigrants in New Zealand. This is partly true but mostly it is a love story that was both predictable but surprising. It gave me plenty to ponder and much to feel sad about. Xenophobia is really about not knowing what you do not know - yet it can taint so ...more
Lisa
Jul 12, 2011 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: ANZ LitLovers Yahoo book group
This debut novel by Alison Wong was the July choice for the ANZ LitLovers reading group. Wong is an established poet and won the Janet Frame Fiction Award in 2009 for the novel. It’s the story of the widowed Katherine McKechnie and her love affair with a Chinese greengrocer, a relationship which has to remain secret because of the overt racism that characterised Wellington society at that time.

It’s not a plot-driven love story. The blurb on the book cover reveals most of the plot anyway so the r
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Michelle
I loved this - until the end. I don't think I'm giving anything too much away by saying it doesn't end happily, although i did not predict HOW it ended, and was shocked and sad. The ending was also so hope-less - Katherine, the main character, had lost so much, what was there left?

The plot is recounted in other reviews so I won't dwell on it here - a love affair between a Chinese man and a white woman in New Zealand at the beginning of the 20th century, a relationship that would not be accepted
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Sarah
The story is engagingly complex - more than a simple love story, it is a story about family loyalty, betrayal and overwhelming guilt.


SPOILER ALERT (though you can probably guess from how the story evolves in the book anyway. I know I did!)

I did struggle to understand how Katherine, the mother, could continue the relationship with her son after what he did, but I suppose she had lost so much already. Given Robbie's attitude growing up I suppose in a way she had "lost him" long ago - when he was
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Megan
This story explores issues of prejudice and freedom to live according to your own choices. Both of the main characters are trapped, Yung because the New Zealand society he lives in places him so far at the bottom that most people will not deign to look him in the eye, let alone have a conversation. Katherine because while her husband was alive she lived in his circle of control and after he dies she discovers the difficulties of coping and bringing up two children in a man's world. Both these ch ...more
Laura Besley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Polly
This book was an enjoyable read but failed to move me particularly. Considering the themes of the story – oppression and racism being the main two – the story could have caused some deep emotional stirrings but this didn’t happen for me.

Set at the turn of the last century, in Wellington, NZ, in the lead up to World War One, there are several key themes at play. And interestingly the story is not narrated from one perspective – the narrative is 3rd person the entire time, and told from the perspe
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Maya Panika
An historical romance across the divide – not at all the kind of thing I usually read but this was a poignant, well-paced, beautifully written account of a tragic love-affair in early 20th Century New Zealand. The only problem I had was with the style which felt, at times, a little distanced from the characters - it’s a first person narrative but you feel as though the characters are speaking from outside themselves, watching events rather than experiencing them that gives the narrative a detach ...more
Arna
Probably a 3.5. I found the story interesting, and a remarkable insight into a period of New Zealand history that, notwithstanding an official apology, has been swept under the carpet in public consciousness. Instantly familiar in tone and sense, my only real criticism would be the pacing - I had the sense that things were rushed towards the end.
Cath
I thought this would be dreadful - and I was pleasantly surprised. Very readable and interesting. Some characters based on fact, mainly fictional. About the Chinese community at the turn of the 19/20th century and how they relate to each other, their Chinese relatives and the white and maori communities in Wellington.
Robin
Since I am currently studying intercultural communication, this was an interesting read, although I also found it interesting from the historical Wellington point of view also.

Weirdly, last year I got an archives question where a woman was trying to figure out where her relatives had lived in Wellington around the turn of the century. I found them on Haining Street, and so did a quick Internet search and found out about its colorful history. Haining Street features prominently in this book, and
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Hikachi
I liked the premise, but it's like reading random diary pages where things are both happening and not happening at the same time
Jmolentin
Not very interesting or inspiring. The writer could have benefited from a good editor.
Marianne
I loved the rhythm of this book, which sat waiting on the shelf for a couple of years. After recognising London and New York in so many books and films it was interesting to glimpse parts of Wellington that I know, though I've never lived there. I must pass it on to my mother who grew up in that area.
The use of historical facts and characters was interesting, and I found it fascinating to realise the author might have lived on the same street as I did - I read ALL of the book.
I did think there
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Sunflower
This beautifully written inter-racial love story is set in Wellington between 1905 and 1922. The intertwining of the Chinese fruiterer's family and the woman's family back in a time where relationships such as these were forbidden brings tragic consequences.
This is a debut novel by a Kiwi author, who reminds us painfully that Chinese were not made welcome in our society. Her language is spare, the chapters are short, and the reader feels enough distance from the characters to give it an Orienta
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Linda
I read this book in two bursts, and I'm not sure why it didn't grip me enough to read it straight through - without the several week break in the middle - because when I was reading it I enjoyed it. (Of course, there is the fact it is one of those annoying paper books and not on my iPad!)

Is it that I was afraid of the outcome? Possibly. It is a lovely book, and is very interesting to imagine Wellington back at the turn of the century, and to look at the changing societal values - eg feminism, a
...more
Nicola
I felt that I didn't engage with a lot of the characters in this book. The story was interesting to a point.

I felt like too many marks were trying to be struck with this and because of it some storyline depth was lacking.
Alison
Honest and profound sense of both mother-child and cross-racial relationships, and their machinations within pre-WWI New Zealand society. The chapters were extremely short and shifted between character perspectives just enough to pull the pace along nicely. This book contains some "local nudges" and is probably more fun if you know a little bit about Wellington geography. All in all, an impressive first novel!
Camille
This was a fascinating and beautiful read that provided great (if upsetting) insight into the life of wellington residents in the early 20th century. The way in which the chinese were treated was awful - which made the relationship between the main characters all the more extraordinary. Well worth it and an easy read although surprising that it was the NZ Book of the Year om 2010.
Amie Mills
I read this book on a 9-hour bus trip from London to Edinburgh and it made me weep. Heartfelt and harrowing, it transported me back to a Wellington I could barely imagine. A time before war had broken out and when 3 was a small fortune. I especially liked the way that the Chinese and English language overlapped and intertwined themselves in love. Twas beautiful.

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Jene' Koenig
I'm not sure exactly why I liked this book so much. It's a story of tragedy, crossing boundaries, and moving forward. I really liked the characters, and how they were portrayed. I liked the historical context, and it was a great love story, and a reminder that there aren't always happily ever afters. So I guess what I'm saying is, it's definitely worth the read.
Estibaliz79
Una historia bonita (se nota que la autora es poetisa) pero que, en última instancia, y para mi gusto personal, se queda demasiado en la superficie. Por un lado se agradece que no se haga de la historia un drama, pero aún así... Interesante también por su trasfondo histórico y cultural, en cualquier caso podría haber quedado en poco más que un relato o una 'novella'.
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There is more than one author with this name

Alison Wong (born 1960) is a New Zealand poet of Chinese heritage. Her background in mathematics comes across in her poetry, not as a subject, but in the careful formulation of words to white space and precision. She has a half-Chinese son with New Zealand poet Linzy Forbes.

Wong has received various awards for her fiction and poetry including the 2002 Ro
...more
More about Alison Wong...
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