Two young lovers contend with the political unrest of 1930s Shanghai in this historical novel.
Blair draws readers into a world of political unrest, slashed dreams and persistent hope for peace in the war-torn city of Shanghai. Dually narrated by Shiying, the dapper, headstrong Chinese writer, and Peipei, a bright, sophisticated courtesan, Blair showcases the challenges the couple faces trying to build a life together in desperate circumstances. For Shiying, there’s nothing more important than pursuing his writing career, even if it means putting his life on the line. The upright Peipei, on the other hand, fears losing her love in the fight for Chinese freedom. She worries that the Japanese Imperial army will execute Shiying and that they will never start a family together. Shiying differs from his politically active coterie because he believes that mutual cooperation and understanding between the Chinese and Japanese could bring peace and because he insists that he’s an apolitical artist. He contends artists can exist beyond politics. Unfortunately, this sentiment proves futile; Japanese forces follow him, convinced he’s part of the opposition. The novel skillfully explores the duty of the artist during wartime. More potent even than the descriptions of Peipei and Shiying is the rendering of Shanghai itself. The narrative exudes an ominousness that saturates the city. The Japanese Sandman, a sinister, foreboding presence, haunts Peipei’s dreams throughout the novel as she tries to convince Shiying to take safety precautions against the Japanese authorities. Readers will clearly see through the foreshadowing to the loving couple’s future.
Serious, informative and graphic, this book expertly plumbs despair.