An ingenuous but moderately appealing tale of domestic discord in a 1925 Chinese-American family . . . during the first...



An ingenuous but moderately appealing tale of domestic discord in a 1925 Chinese-American family . . . during the first Shanghai rumbles of Chinese Communist revolution. Two cousins--six-year-old Little Sister and teenager Celia--have been summoned to Shanghai for better schooling by their American grandfather. (Traveling by sea with snappish second Aunt as chaperone, the girls discover that Auntie needs a bit of chaperoning herself--when they peek into the Captain's bedroom.) And in Shanghai they are faced with two extremes of Chinese 20th-century lire: regal Grandmother, barely able to totter on her ""Lily Feet""; and the Grandparents' adopted son ""Lik"" (Patrick)--who, with friend Min-Li, has grown tired of the talky inaction of Sun Yatsen's Revolutionary party . . . and secretly ventures into more drastic political commitment. (Suddenly there's Mr. Ling, who speaks of a strike--and a closed-door meeting with Mr. Chou, Chief of the Communist Party's strike committee.) Lik and Celia fall in love, another secret matter. Lik wonders about his parentage. (Could he have ""bad blood""?) Also: what if Chou calls him away from Shanghai? Soon events are jostling, then, like junks on the Yangtse: Grandfather's heart attack; Min-Li's imprisonment for ""subversion"" in a silk factory; the giant May 30 demonstration, with marchers killed by British police, Lik wounded and imprisoned; Grandmother's rickshaw-hurtle to the US embassy; the devastating news of Lik's parentage; the revelation of terrible consequences of a youthful crime by Celia's father. And, eventually recovering but always grieving for Lik (who's now a Party worker forever apart from her), Celia will also work for Chou--to be ""still connected to Lik, with something of his to think about, to be alert and alive about."" Gaan (Last Moments of a World) never really succeeds here in blending the political with the domestic: the treatment of major events and issues often becomes unconvincing or simplistic. But, with alternating narration by Celia, Lik, and Little Sister, the household voices (though faint) do have a tidy, child-like grace--and undemanding readers will find this a small-scale history/family tale in an agreeably old-fashioned rein.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1982