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As the Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong
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Oct 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: vine, 2010
Read from August 29 to October 01, 2010

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 and the reader really senses the cultual differences between the Chinese and the New Zealand populations.

I was not aware that there were so many Chinese in New Zealand in the early twentieth century and it was fascinating that the author's ancestors had been amongst them. She was therefore in a unique position to write this book.
The reactions of the local population to the build-up of war were also interesting, very much mirroring what was happening in Britain at the time.
As Wong says in her Author's Note, many of the political characters mentioned were factual and while WWI was brewing, equally significant changes were happening within China, which greatly affected the immigrant populations.

When we meet Katherine she is married to the obnoxious Donald. Her two children, Edie and Robbie are studious and tear-away respectively. The whole family is traumatised by Donald's death but they all react differently.
Then Katherine becomes attracted to a local Chinese grocer and the repercussions affect everyone.

An enjoyable read that is lifted by the insights into Chinese immigrant life at the time.
Recommended.
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