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While it would seem almost impossible for Lau Shaw to recapture the freshness of Rickshaw Boy, its' almost naive charm, this new book reinstates him as a figure in modern Chinese literature to be reckoned with. The Yellow Storm seemed insubstantial, saying little. The Drum Singers, on the other hand, is more tightly plotted, offers more of a story, more inter-character conflict, than anything he has done. He tells - against the background of war-torn China, the story of a little group of displaced persons, coming for refuge to Chungking, and seeking to make a living there with their despised profession, a low form of entertainment. But Pao Ching was a substantial step above his fellows, in aspirations, in moral calibre, in the goals he set for his foster daughter, Lotus Charm, who worked with him. He was characteristic of the Old China and the New, at transition. And Lotus Charm tried desperately to fulfill his dream, but succumbed under the ignominy others forced upon her-and her own over-protected ignorance and innocence. Her special quality is set in sharp contrast against the dull placid acceptance of her foster sister, against the flaunting sexuality of the other singer in the troupe. And yet she yields to passion when first it touches her -- and later, deserted by the man whose child she carried, returns home in shame. There's a desperate sense of striving and failing -- and the student playwright, the liberal who served his term in jail, acts as Greek chorus, expounding the conflict within. There's a kind of remoteness for the Occidental, but this book almost bridges it.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1952
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace