Tocotin's Reviews > The Hundred Secret Senses

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
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's review
Jul 25, 15

bookshelves: contemporary-literature, my-own-books, used-books, historical-fiction, far-east, china
Read in December, 2011 — I own a copy

I bought this one after having enjoyed "The Joy Luck Club", but couldn't get into it somehow. Then after a few days I got back to it and finished it really fast. Hm. I did enjoy it, to a point.

It's a story of two half-sisters, 'American' Olivia and 'Chinese' Kwan. Olivia is the main character/narrator, apart from the moments where Kwan talks about her previous life as a Hakka girl during the Taiping uprising (which was one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book - but the Taipings are mainly in the background, too bad). Olivia is a nasty, whiney person who doesn't know and doesn't WANT to know what she wants. Kwan is a caricature of a Chinese immigrant who couldn't be bothered to learn more or less grammatical English despite having lived in San Francisco since her childhood. She doesn't need any language actually, because she can converse with ghosts in, um, some Secret Sense language and with her family in another, a language called Folksy Words of Wisdom or something. I liked her, but... the whole reincarnation story, the trip to China, the caves, it was all sort of phony. All the stories of different characters, so separated by mentality and time, suddenly came together too smoothly, too easily. I know it's a strange complaint to have, but the China part of the book seemed just too hastily put together, possibly with the use of a few postcards and/or guidebooks. The San Francisco part was much better.
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