Books by Lilian Lee

FAREWELL TO MY CONCUBINE by Lilian Lee
Released: Sept. 24, 1993

From bestselling Hong Kong writer Lee (The Last Princess of Manchuria, 1992): a breathless and broad-brushed tale of love among the stars of the Peking opera, the movie version of which won top prize at Cannes and is scheduled for simultaneous release. Sold by his prostitute mother to a director of a school that trains young boys to be singers in the Peking opera, timid Xiao Douzi is soon befriended by older and braver Xiao Shitou. Life at the training school is rigorous if not harsh, but Douzi, who shows much promise, is protected for the most part by Shitou, who's strong enough to split a brick in two with his forehead. The boys grow, give performances, and, as their abilities are recognized, eventually become the stars of a leading company. Their favorite opera is Farewell to My Concubine, in which the manly Shitou sings the role of a defeated general, and Douzi, who's perfected all the necessary gestures, plays the role of his beloved and loyal concubine. Immersed in their art, the two young men are only gradually aware of what's happening in China itself. The Japanese invade, occupy; civil war breaks out; and then Mao takes over. Meanwhile, Shitou marries a former prostitute, much to the despair of Douzi, who loves him. The political turmoil curtails their performances, but their troubles worsen during the Cultural Revolution: Douzi is accused of being a collaborator; both are denounced for participating in a decadent art; both are forced to undergo reeducation, brutal interrogations, and exile in the countryside. Years later, they meet up in Hong Kong, and the two old singers sing their favorite duets—but it's too late: The old affection can't survive; ``the glittering tragedy is over.'' A contemporary action-packed Chinese history lesson and love story with as much nuance as a revolutionary slogan. The movie must be better. Read full book review >
THE LAST PRINCESS OF MANCHURIA by Lilian Lee
Released: Aug. 22, 1992

In a first translation ever, Lee (pseudonym of Hong Kong writer Li Pik-Wah)—a widely read, prolific author of novels and film scripts—offers a high-colored meld of Wonder Woman postures and the poignancy of forlorn romantic suffering. Here is the exotic fictional tale of a famous spy in the pre-Communist Japanese- Chinese conflicts. When Princess Yoshiko Kawashima (her later celebrity name) is seven, her father, Prince Su—head of a Manchu family who would rule over a Manchurian state should it be restored—sends the child to a Japanese foster father. She is groomed to work for the Japanese, who will, supposedly, restore Manchuria. But, at adolescence, terrible adventures befall Yoshiko: She's raped by her foster father, sent here and there, married, and later betrayed by the men she loves. She finds her way, however, by becoming a spy for the Japanese spymaster Uno. He even makes her a commander: ``Commander Chin Pi-hui of the Pacification Army of Manchukuo.'' Dressed in a military uniform with braid and sword, Yoshiko experiences ``the most glorious day of her life.'' Meanwhile, toughened and soured by disappointment in love, Commander Chin chooses and discards lovers, is apt, on impulse, to pepper rooms with bullets. But what thanks will Yoshiko get from the Japanese? She helps them found their Manchukuo (Manchuria) by spreading propaganda, bribing, ``putting the squeeze on politicians, spying, and bringing the populace to heel.'' In the end, she is almost assassinated, betrayed, marched to the wall and shot—or is she? In spite of the bolts of melodrama, Yoshiko's plight as a victim of power-crazy men is intensified to full misty effect at the close. And Commander Chin is a sensation. An exotic item well worth a fascinated glance. Read full book review >