THE RED PEONY by Lin Yutang


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The love life of a young, rebellious widow in turn-of-the-century China is handled with a great deal of charm and candor by the popular writer, philosopher and lecturer. Lin Yutang is an old hand at creating situations that hold the reader's interest. This is highly romantic, often flowery, at times somewhat schoolgirlish. But the characters are warmly compelling, and the unconventional Peony, who cannot cry at her husband's funeral, emerges as a rather strange mixture of a Chinese Amber and a 19th century suffragist-hoyden. For her the heart is all, society nothing. Peony has more than her share of lovers and adventure before the bittersweet end. There is her unlamented husband, whom she'd been forced to marry; there is Chin Chu, her childhood sweetheart; there is the scholar Mengehia, who captures her heart briefly; there is Fu Nanto, a boxer-farmer, An Tonien, a poet, a General and some unidentified marauders. This rather jumbled plot is skilfully unscrambled with an occasional smattering of Old China wit and wisdom, and Peony settles for her boxer-farmer. Her sensibility is perhaps more modern-Western than befits her lincage, but Lin Yutang has embroidered around her an intriguing aura of Confucianist philosophy. The background sparkles with scenes of Peking, Tunglu and 19th century China. But this is a novel of love, both physical and spiritual, and Peony is a beguiling heroine. One can safely predict a wide audience on the distaff side.

Publisher: World