I read the first chapter and was not crazy about the writing style--the way the main character reacts to her aunt's demands seemed unrealistic and bizI read the first chapter and was not crazy about the writing style--the way the main character reacts to her aunt's demands seemed unrealistic and bizarre. Then I decided to read the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and decided that it's not worth my time.
I love books about China, but only well-written ones. Will seek more of those out instead....more
Interesting descriptions of modern China, Iraqi war crimes and veteran PTSD, etc. But ultimately, I was quite disappointed in the ending, which coloreInteresting descriptions of modern China, Iraqi war crimes and veteran PTSD, etc. But ultimately, I was quite disappointed in the ending, which colored my view of the whole book.
I really enjoyed this novel about a young Hong Kong Chinese girl who arrives in Brooklyn, New York, and has to work in a sweatshop with her mother. ReI really enjoyed this novel about a young Hong Kong Chinese girl who arrives in Brooklyn, New York, and has to work in a sweatshop with her mother. Read my full review here: http://mariesbookgarden.blogspot.com/......more
I have finally given up on this book, 3/4 of the way through, which is highly unusual for me.
I really wanted to like it--the plot sounded interesting,I have finally given up on this book, 3/4 of the way through, which is highly unusual for me.
I really wanted to like it--the plot sounded interesting, about a Japanese woman who grew up in China and became a successful actor there during the war, and then reinvented herself in Japan and also in the U.S. with different identities throughout her life. The story is based on the life of the real-life Ri Koran.
However. The author, famous Japan expert Ian Buruma, uses three different male narrators to tell her story. The effect is that the reader never really gets very close to Yamaguchi Yoshiko...because of the distance created by this type of narration. Buruma also throws in tons of minor characters, and frankly, I just had a hard time staying interested toward the end.
The novel is divided into three parts, and I read through the first two and began scanning through the third one when I finally decided to give up.
I did leave it with two stars, however, because I'm interested in almost anything about Japan and China...and I found it intriguing to read about life in Japan during the occupation.
But this could have been done so much better. I agree with Japan resident and author Suzanne Kamata's review of this book...the only reason I took a chance on it was because of my interest in Japan and China. Unfortunately, I regret that I wasn't reading something more captivating!...more
Last year I got the opportunity to hear Tsukiyama speak at a banquet for the Willamette Writers in Portland. She is half Japanese-American and half ChLast year I got the opportunity to hear Tsukiyama speak at a banquet for the Willamette Writers in Portland. She is half Japanese-American and half Chinese-American, and most of her books center around Japan or China. After hearing her speak, I read her first novel, "Women of the Silk" (about women who worked in the silk factories in China) and loved it. "The Language of Threads" picks up where "Women of the Silk" left off.
I can see that Tsukiyama's writing has only improved in the interval between the two books. The Language of Threads is the continuing story of former silk worker, Pei, as she escapes to Hong Kong and endures WWII under the Japanese occupation. She continues to form strong friendships and thrive in the midst of the chaos around her.
Pei's story is unusual in literature about China for two reasons: (1) women rely on each other more than they rely on men...it's a hopeful story about women sticking together through turmoil, and (2) the books have positive male characters (as well as negative). I also find it interesting to consider Tsukiyama's ethnic background, 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Japanese, and wonder about her own inner turmoil as she writes about what her Japanese ancestry did to her Chinese ancestry around the time of the war.
Well worth the time! If you read this one, I strongly enourage you to read "Women of the Silk" first....more
As a small child, Su-Jen arrives in a small town outside of Toronto to live with her father, whom she has never met. She and her mother have immigrated from Hong Kong, much to her mother's dismay. Su-Jen (or Annie, her Canadian name) feels completely caught between cultures as the only Chinese child in her small town in the 1960s (her parents run the one Chinese restaurant). She's constantly walking the fine line between being a good Chinese girl and growing up as a Canadian.
Bates based her story on her own life experience...she too came to Canada as a girl. As she drove through Canadian small towns, she couldn't help but wonder what life would be like as the only Chinese family in town.
When Su-Jen's brother comes to stay, the family's staid but settled life gets thrown into disarray. Her mother's deep unhappiness comes to light, in addition to her father's willingness (and the Chinese cultural approach) to overlook unpleasant things to maintain peace and face.
Bates beautifully describes the life of an immigrant child who is always caught in the middle, feeling as if she never fits in anywhere. She desperately wants to try out for the lead role in a school play until one of her friends tells her that a Chinese person would never get the lead role. She opts to be in the chorus instead of trying out.
Su-Jen's mother is a woman trapped by her beauty, bitterness, and lack of choices. A woman with a child in the 1960s--either Chinese or from another country--did not have many options beyond finding a man to take care of her. Stories about people feeling trapped in their lives, deeply unfilled and unhappy, make me sad.
Ultimately, the secrets fall out, as they always do. Su-Jen realizes that secrets can cause anguish and pain, but so can revealing them....more
After recently hearing Tsukiyama speak in person, I decided to go back and read her novels in order. This is an excellent first novel, about the livesAfter recently hearing Tsukiyama speak in person, I decided to go back and read her novels in order. This is an excellent first novel, about the lives of women in China working in the silk trade. I loved it! Excellent story of women's friendship....more