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The Fortunes

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,701 ratings  ·  322 reviews
Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience.

Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime
Hardcover, 268 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Carol He has taken facts and fictionalized them. Haven't read it yet, But that is what the blurb says,…moreHe has taken facts and fictionalized them. Haven't read it yet, But that is what the blurb says,(less)

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Elyse  Walters
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Four Stories: Gold, Silver, Jade, and Pearl....
In each of the four stories told by Peter Ho Davies --[three which are inspired by
real historical characters]....challenges are examined of immigrant life.

Ling, from the first story "Gold", ( 1860's), is one of those characters that stays with you. He's an orphan from China...(Pearl River), and we follow him to Gold Mountain in California. ---He takes several jobs, ( laundry - valet), before eventually becoming an organizer - a leader- of Chinese
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3.75 stars. The Fortunes was a great concept by a talented writer that worked better in some parts than others. It's divided into four stories that are only marginally related in a way that becomes clear at the end. Each deals with different experiences of Chinese Americans at different points in history. The first and last stories were by far my favourites. The first focused on Ling who came to the US in the late 19th century amongst many people who came from China to help build the railroad. A ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Ling and the section Gold was by far my favorite and if the others were as good as this one I would have given it an unequivocal four star rating. Did like the structure of this novel, the different sections that tied to the others, though sometimes it was hard to find the connection. The second section about the first Chinese actress I did not like the way it was written and did not care for the character. The third and fourth sections were just okay for me. Overall the book did a good job ...more
When I began The Fortunes, I knew almost immediately I was in the hands of a master writer. I was caught up in the story right away. The stories held my attention through to the end, the beautiful prose helping me face the sometimes challenging questions contained in the stories.

The Fortunes is a collection of four novellas, each of which examines a different experience of what it means to be a Chinese-American. The first story “Gold,” takes place in the 19th century. Ling comes from China to Go
This richly varied book, composed of four subtly linked novellas, illuminates the Chinese-American experience from the 1860s through the present day. I appreciated the title’s connotations of fate and luck, and the way the sections are based around metaphors of precious materials. However, I expected some direct links between the novellas, whether ancestral or otherwise. Even though the stylistic variety throughout the book is welcome, it creates some dissonance. Also, “Gold” makes for a pretty ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've been in a bit of a slump lately when it comes to reading, and even more so when it comes to reviewing. At times like these, I need an author to surprise me, to show me something I haven't seen before. Something I can be excited about. A lifeline to pull me out of the reading doldrums.

Enter Peter Ho Davies' new novel, The Fortunes, stage right. Here's what's so cool about it: the book reads more like a set of interconnected novellas than a straightforward novel. There are four discrete stor
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
'The Fortunes' by Peter Ho Davies

4 stars

I read Peter Ho Davies' first novel The Welsh Girl several years ago, so I was interested to read his new novel 'The Fortunes'.

The novel has 4 sections, all relating in some way to Chinese Americans. There are some historical characters included, although Ho Davies makes it clear that he has fictionalised many things relating to them.

My favourite section was the first one, 'Gold'. This was about Chinese Americans and their involvement in the development of
Jessica Sullivan
This sprawling novel about the Chinese American experience spans from the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s to present-day, each of the four sections dedicated to a different individual (three of whom are real historical figures) navigating life, hardship and identity in America.

Ling is an indentured servant who inadvertently initiates an explosion in Chinese labor in the 1860s. Anna May Wong is the first Chinese American actress, loved for her exotic beauty yet excluded fro
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is based over a 150 year period around 4 stories involving Chinese (Chinese Americans) where there is subtle and overt racism towards the characters but liked the novel as it showed how it could be to be an immigrant or child of an immigrant in a very difficult environment but at the same time trying to blend both cultures.
Susanne  Strong
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies is a collection of Four Novellas, all of which depict different stories about the life of Chinese Americans in different time periods. The novellas are vastly different, and almost seems as though they are written by a completely different author.

The first novella, Gold, is about the character of Ling who emigrates to the California from China in the 19th Century in hopes of making it rich. He works in a myriad of low paying, labor positions all the while being d
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Originally posted at

"They – all of them – are Chinese American now, not just because America has finally, begrudgingly, allowed them to be, but because China has closed to them."

I have been reading this book for a while. I borrowed it in December, read it a little, put it down and picked it up in between and amongst all those other books I read throughout these seven weeks. It’s a book that spans generations, so perhaps it is fitting that it crossed over
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lacpl-ebook

“But now I see what you want. Like other men, after all. The same thing, the one thing. Love. The only thing you can’t have, poor Chinaman, not on Gold Mountain.” (Kindle Locations 1139-1140)

The Fortunes, by Peter Ho Davies is a collection of four, rather long, short stories: Gold, Silver, Jade, Pearl—each of which stands entirely on its own. The first three, which relate tales of real people/events, are very entertaining. The last, Pearl, however, was ra
Sep 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Comprised of four stories, a novella and three smaller pieces, The Fortunes by acclaimed writer Peter Ho Davies, was a sampler of Chinese-American fictionalized histories thematically centered on the difficulties of melding cultures together and finding one’s identity therein. In all four tales, the main character is torn between being American and being Asian. The characters wrestle with how they should walk the line between immersion in their adopted nation’s ways and their filial duty to thei ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
“It’s not hungry spirits you should pray for, it’s the hungry living.”
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This novel is about Chinese Culture as it evolves alongside the American immigrant’s experience. Is it a slow death of tradition and family, or a birth of something lasting and new? The story begins with Ling, a young fatherless boy ready to prove himself working in the opium and sex trade. Chosen to make his way to America, Ling eventually works in a laundries which are more
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it
"The Fortunes" by Peter Ho Davies is billed as a novel although it really consists of four novellas. The tome relates Mr. Davies' take on the Chinese American Experience in the melting pot of America.

In "Gold", fatherless Ling has grown up on a flower boat. Ling's specialty is preparing opium while many young girls are prostitutes. The floating shelter serves as home until Ling is sent to an arranged position in San Francisco. Working for Ng's laundry, Ling befriends Little Sister who reports th
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I LOVE the idea of this novel - linking Ah Ling, Anna May Wong, and Vincent Chin - I thought this was going to be an epic (a Chinese-American epic - someone should write that). And though this was meticulously well-researched and I LOVE the inclusion of a Tanka protagonist (!!!) and the author does a great a job of showing us just how devastating the ironies and riddles of history are - the execution was a little lacking. The writing felt a little stagnant. I think this was just missing some kin ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
F I N A L L Y ! This is the immigrant story/novel/novella collection I've been looking for! After Behold the Dreamers and The Wangs vs The World let me down I'm beyond thrilled to have read The Fortunes. Told in four novellas it's an extraordinary book about identity and reclamation. Spanning 150 years it grapples with aspects of the Chinese-American immigrant experience. It reminded me of The Sympathizer in tone and is just as good as that excellent novel. The writing is clever and powerful and ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I tried, and most people seem to like this. I quit, a quarter of the way in. At first I thought it was the audio narrator, whose Chinese accented dialogue was a joy to listen to but whose flat third-person narration was gratingly dull. But no: the fatal flaw is Ho Davies's polysyllabic Latinate diction. That kind of prose ruins a lot of modern British fiction for me but was glaringly out of place in this novel of the Chinese-American immigrant experience. ...more
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
I would have quit this had I not felt obligated to finish because it was a NetGalley ARC.

I just didn't work for me: the structure, the characters, the tenuous connections between sections...

I can't recommend this. It was just too all over the place.
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
It's been a long time since I have loved a novel as much as I loved The Fortunes. The book is divided into four sections. Each tackles a specific time in Chinese American history. Each section involves a different character. The first involves a railroad baron's valet and the second section is told from the point of view of Chinese American film star Anna May Wong. The third is told from by Vincent Chin's best friend, and the fourth is narrated by a half Chinese American man who is going to Chin ...more
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-bingo-2017
Sometimes a book is good because you completely escape into and inhabit the story; sometimes a book is good because it challenges you, educates you (without being too heavy-handed), and makes you think long after finishing. I'd say The Fortunes is the latter. It's four novellas loosely tied together, all tracking the challenges of the Chinese/Chinese-American/American by adoption experience at different points in U.S. history (three of the four novellas are based on actual people, which was tota ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I liked this book at the beginning but after the initial story about Ling and his life in the early West building the intercontinental railroad, I found the rest of the stories to be not nearly as interesting. I finally called it a day and moved on to another book. It appears that this author wrote 4 different novellas all about Chinese men covering a span of 100 years, and concentrating mainly on racism. I don't particularly recommend it. You takes your chances...sometimes you just don't pick " ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Imagine a multigenerational novel, but not about members of the same family. This book is split into four sections, each covering a specific character - different in voice, style, and time period. What Davies does well is he brings it all together with threads and qualities that make the four characters feel nearly familial.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love taking my son to the library and picking out books for him. Recently he decided that he needs to pick out books for me. After a few flops (politics and poetry, really kid?), he pulled this one off the new releases shelf for me. Great pick! Entertaining and totally up my alley.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
(more to follow)

A few quotes reflecting a certain poignant and bittersweet analysis.

"The Chinese might have physically united the country by building a railroad across it, but now they were uniting it in another sense, binding the quarrelling tribes of Irish and English, French and Germans, Swedes and Italians together against a common enemy."

"In the beginning it was the theaters' thrill of invisibility that she craved, that she couldn't get enough of, tired as she was of being stared at in the
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written and atmospheric novel. It is divided into four sections, each one devoted to a different character in a different time. The first three characters are based on real people, and the fourth is based on the author's own experiences. This is a fantastic and interesting novel.

Gold is set in1860's and follows young Ah-Ling, son of a Chinese prostitute and a white “ghost”, shipped off from his native Hong Kong to make his fortune in California. He starts off by working in
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
In this nation of immigrants, we know the provision "all men are created equal," is still not a living reality for every person in this country. Throughout history, not all immigrants have felt they were equal in the eyes of their fellow Americans. Each new group has to claw their way through the process of gaining respect, even in today's world.

Peter Ho Davies takes the history of three Chinese American immigrants and gives us stories going from the railroad construction in the Sierra Nevada Mo
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reading this book shortly after the election was an interesting and moving experience. At a time when I want desperately to believe that ugliness and racism won't prevail, this book was a sobering reminder that it has been a problem for America for a very long time.

The novel is divided into for stories--novellas, really--that takes the reader from the first wave of Asian immigration and the building of the transcontinental railroa
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Peter Ho Davies is a contemporary British writer of Welsh and Chinese descent. He was born and raised in Coventry. Davies studied physics at Manchester University then English at Cambridge University.

In 1992 he moved to the United States as a professor of creative writing. He has taught at the University of Oregon and Emory University and is now on the faculty of the MFA Program in Creative Writin

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“That war had almost torn the country in two, but the railroad, men said, had bound it back together, the tracks and ties like sutures to a wound, now fading to a scar.” 0 likes
“The first Chinese star, they call her, and it's the qualifications that are crucial. First. Chinese. A star may play only him- or herself, but she is supposed to play a race. How can she be herself and represent millions, both at once? And who does she represent them to? To themselves or others? "Who does she thinks she is?" an outraged Nationalist critic has demanded. She wishes she could say.

Not a star, then. A star gives off its own light. Another celestial body, a moon, reflecting others' light.”
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