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The Palest Ink

(Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters 0.5)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,310 ratings  ·  159 reviews
A sheltered son from an intellectual family in Shanghai, Benfu spends 1966 anticipating a promising violinist career and an arranged marriage. On the other side of town lives Pony Boy, a member of a lower-class family—but Benfu’s best friend all the same. Their futures look different but guaranteed…until they’re faced with a perilous opportunity to leave a mark on history. ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Lake Union Publishing
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Fiona M Watson My personal view is read what grips you from the first page or back 'blurb'. Dates don't matter as it's history fictionalized so you can't spoil the…moreMy personal view is read what grips you from the first page or back 'blurb'. Dates don't matter as it's history fictionalized so you can't spoil the ending.....just enjoy(less)
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4.37  · 
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 ·  1,310 ratings  ·  159 reviews

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好记性不如烂笔头 (translation)--
"The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory." - Chinese proverb

I have all of Kay Bratt's books downloaded on my Kindle. I will admit that I was initially seduced by the beautiful covers. I had little knowledge of the stories waiting to be told beyond such beauty. I chose to begin with the prequel, The Palest Ink . I'm not sure if beginning with this book will give too much of the story away but I'm glad I chose to start here because I now have a better understand
Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read about this time period in China for a while and it was good to revisit Mao’s Cultural Revolution. This book is actually a prequel to a series of books that Ms. Bratt has written about the people of China. She spent quite a few years living in China which has resulted in this wonderfully character driven account of the people’s struggle with the changes in China.

The main characters, Benfu and Pony Boy ar
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I received an uncorrected digital proof of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the author, Kay Bratt, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley. Publication date: October 27, 2015

"The palest ink is better than the best memory." What should have been a compelling read--the effects of Mao's Cultural Revolution on the lives of two young male friends, their families, and Chinese society as a whole--suffers from ineffective character development and an overreliance on de
I LOVED this book! This book is the prequel to the Scavenger's Daughter series and gives readers more insight into how the main character, Benfu, and how he became the man he is in the rest of the series. One does not need to have read the previous books to read this book as it does not give away any spoilers for the rest of the series.

This book is set during the Cultural Revolution in China, when China was in turmoil during Mao's was ruling China. When people lived in fear and uncertainty. Kay
Kelli Estes
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful story that gives readers a look inside China's cultural revolution, and all it's heartbreak, terror, and betrayal told through the eyes of two boys who become men while learning about loyalty, honor, and love.
J.  Brandzen
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book highlights China’s Cultural Revolution and its many ramifications in a way that is poignant and heart-rending. The externalities of Mao's policies, the paranoia of the urban bourgeoisie, the desperation and brutality of the communes, the gripping terror inspired by the Red Guards, and the sheer pointlessness of it all is on full display in this captivating novel.
Jeni H
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley for review purposes. I was drawn to this title for the subject matter--Cultural Revolution-era China--and was not disappointed. The author's style, presentation of characters, development of the plot, and firm handle on the historical context are all impeccable. I found it difficult to put this one down. This book is a prequel to a series that I've been meaning to read, but I think I will be glad I read this one first. It provides so much ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
The Palest Ink, considered historical fiction, was an interesting book, and I am sure that the author did a lot of research to make it historically accurate. Since I have read many books by Chinese-American and Chinese authors about this period in Chinese history, I was quite familiar with the Cultural Revolution, Mao Tse-Tung, and the devastation it caused to millions of people. Had it been my first introduction to this period of history, I may have been more impressed. However, Kay Bratt’s wri ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
took a little while to get into this but, once I did, it captured my attention fully. It was a beautiful and interesting story set in a period I did not know too much about.
I received an advanced review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in the late 1960s, *The Palest Ink* is a prequel to the Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters series also by Kay Bratt. In this novel, Bratt explores the beginnings of Mao Zedong's rule over China, the fervor of the young people in their near worship of the man and the effect of Mao's harsh and catastrophic policies on two families in Shanghai. Benfu is a wealthy son of academics, and his best friend, Pony Boy,
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Maybe a 3 1/2. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Not quite sure how to rate this. I have a masters in international affairs and studied China so was quite familiar with the time period [and campaigns] covered. In the beginning I thought, this could be a great story--the evolution of the Cultural Revolution set against the struggle of two young men to come into their own--new China versus old China. Customs versus love. Family versus politics and so on.

There was a
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book to preview and from the very first page was caught up in the story. The book reminded me of books written by James Michener in that there was a lot of very informative history but was written in such a way that it was exciting. Kay Bratt truly knows how to tell a story! I learned a lot from this book about the history of China, what the people had gone through, and as I said, the book held my interest for word one. If you have not read the series: "The Scavenger's Daughters ...more
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this story of two Shanghai teenagers caught up in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. Much has been written about this time, but Kay Bratt holds her own her as a masterful storyteller. What caught my attention was the friendship between the two main characters, Benfu and Pony Boy. The first came from a refined Shanghai family that thought it would be immune to the increasing chaos in post-1949 China. Pony Boy, on the other hand, was from a working class background, but the two boys ...more
Rebekka Steg
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it
While I understand that the author spent some time in China herself, I did not get the feeling that she fully knew/understood this time in Chinese history. I've read several books by Chinese authors covering the same time period, and they had a very different feeling to them.

The Palest Ink wasn't bad, and there's a good chance I would've enjoyed it more had I read the other books in the series (The Palest Ink is technically a prequel, but was written after the others).

I did enjoy getting to kn
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Although the time period was interesting to me (the 1960's under Mao) and the story was compelling, the writing style seemed so simple. I thought for a while that it was a Young Adult book that I had bought unknowingly. The characters became more interesting as the book unfolded and if truly portraying life at that time, the events were horrifying at times. While I was interested in the story line, I would have preferred a faster-moving plot and a more complex writing style.
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book to show the horrors of Mao

It amazes me that a man as evil as Chairman Mao is so revered by the people of China. His picture still adorns the money, yet he destroyed so much of value in the Chinese culture. This book of two friends shows just how difficult it was living under his regime. Families turned on reach other, neighbors couldn't be trusted. It was an evil time. And it comes out in this book
Tanya Searle
A beautifully told story about the sufferings of the Chinese people during the cultural revolution. Normally I become bored with historical fact in fiction, but Kay Bratt did a fabulous job with this narrative. The history melded in with the characters and storyline making it interesting and informative. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a kindle copy of this novel.
Gail Nelson
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! This is a prequel to a trilogy that I have wanted to read. Love the genre, love the characters. Actually enjoying not having to worry what to read next. Scavenger's Daughter here I come!!
I read "The Scavenger's Daughter" a while ago, and really enjoyed it. The story of BenFu's fate, being beaten and punished for not revealing who his family was and where they lived was heartbreaking. That happens at the very beginning, and then to his escape and then he's married. I wondered what happened after the chapter where he meets Calla Lily and then fast forward to where they are married and have adopted children.
This prequel picks up to how/why BenFu ended up in a commune, why he was be
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surely you have read the great novels written by Kay Bratt? The series The Scavengers Daughters? Well, this book, The Palest Ink, is about the time period before The Scavengers Daughters. It is a standalone book, but I promise you will want to continue on with the Scavenger series after you read this one.
This is a historical novel covering the decade during the 60s of the Cultural Revolution. A blurb from Wikipedia: "The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, wa
I had already read the 4 novels in the Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters series by Kay Bratt before reading this one but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this one which is a prequel to the series. This novel set in China during the Mao Tse tung reign tells the story of how Benfu went from being a young man born into a wealthy family in which both parents taught at a university to becoming a scavenger to make a living. When the novel starts out, Benfu was a high school aged young man wh ...more
Dixie LoCicero
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I grew up hearing of Chairman Mao and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but haven't read many books telling the story in detail. Kay Bratt weaves a wonderful story of 2 boys who become great friends, Benfu and Pony Boy. Benfu is from a wealthy family, his parents both teach in the University, he takes music lessons and dreams of becoming a professional musician. His home has servants and he has never wanted for anything. Pony Boy comes from a poorer family, his father is a mailman and his mother ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The faintest ink is better than the best memory...

Benfu has lived a charmed life as the son of scholars. While he has a good heart, his perception of life is the polar opposite of that of his best friend, Pony Boy, the son of a mail carrier. Benfu wants for nothing, while Pony Boy's family works for everything.

Benfu's privileged life soon becomes ironic as the cultural revolution begins. Those who are educated and perceived as wealthy are in grave danger of losing everything...while those who ha
Laurie Erickson
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be fascinating on so many levels. Learning more about the revolution and how it affected the Chinese people. The main character is from a well-to-do family but is sent to work on a farm instead of going to music school as he had planned. One of the things that really interested me was when he has a conversation with an elderly woman about her foot binding as a young girl. Although I’ve heard of it, I just had to stop and learn more about it online. How horrific that practice ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although a Prequel, A Fitting Conclusion to the Series!

An emotional story of a young man from a privileged background becoming a man who has been through the fire and emerged stronger. If you’ve read The Scavenger’s Daughters series, this book is a must read to learn how Benfu became the man he is. A fascinating look into the Cultural Revolution in China in the 60’s and 70’s. Although I lived through that period of time, I realized that I actually knew very little about. A book I would definitel
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book after having read the other 4 in this series. It easily would have fit to be read at the start of the series but it also works at the end. I enjoyed learning the backgrounds of Benfu and Calli and how they came to be the living family they are. The entire series, the Scavengers Daughters, has been a very bittersweet story. The bitter - the unjust way people especially little girls have been and are treated in China. The sweet - how a few do find real families that love and care ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captivating story

I found this book to be very captivating, it was very difficult for me to put it down . We in America have no idea what other countries have gone through trying to be free. Made me think and appreciate the freedoms we have and the sacrifices made by others to ensure our freedoms. I would recommend this book to anyone that would enjoy an excellent read. I thank Ms. Kate Bratt for writing this book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Fatima Arshad
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very intense book

I gave this 4 stars because...I really like it, but I am not sure if it (or the characters) will stay with me for a long time.

This is a really good historical fiction which goes into China's history. The story is written very well and the author is able to convey every emotion brilliantly! Whether it's fear, anger, sorrow or anything, it's quite palpable. Overall, this is a wonderful book and is written very well.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved the rest of the series, and I like this one even more because I enjoy reading historical fiction. I know about the cultural revolution from other books but every time I read about it again, I feel how blessed I am that my ancestors managed to escape the madness before it had begun. A great reminder that we cannot take sanity for granted. I could really feel for the characters and their plights in the story. I’m just disappointed there aren’t more books in the series!
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book on Kindle Unlimited with audio. The Palest Ink is another wonderful historical tale by Kay Bratt which occurs during China's cultural revolution. Three young people live through the horrifying upheaval of everything they knew to be true in their lives. Neighbor against neighbor, family member against family member...Kay Bratt gives the reader a look inside the beginning of the Maoist’s regime that exists today. I couldn’t put it down!
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Kay Bratt is the author of eleven full-length novels and two children’s books. Her writing became her solace and support while she navigated a tumultuous childhood, followed by a decade of abuse as an adult. After working her way through the hard years, Kay came out a survivor and a pursuer of peace—and finally found the courage to share her stories. A wise man once told her to “write what you kno ...more

Other books in the series

Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters (4 books)
  • The Scavenger's Daughters (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters, #1)
  • Tangled Vines (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters, #2)
  • Bitter Winds (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters, #3)
  • Red Skies (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters, #4)
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“What about The Palest Ink? It goes with the proverb that ‘the palest ink is better than the best memory.’” “What’s that mean?” Pony Boy asked. Zu Wren bounced on the seat, obviously excited. “It means that people’s memories change over time, but if there’s a written account, then it will be more accurately remembered.” 1 likes
“If you need to use it to get your comrade home, then do it. We can always earn more.” 0 likes
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