A True Story of Love and Betrayal
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Both the memoir of a young Chinese peasant girl coming of age during the Cultural Revolution and a cross-cultural tragic romance which depicts the struggle between love for another individual and loyalty to one’s country. Meihong begins life as an enthusiastic recruit of the People’s Liberation Army, but she possesses a quickness of observation and critical insight which makes it impossible for her not to pick up on the many hypocrisies involved in her PLA training. One of the more revealing moments of the narrative is the drunken rebellion of a class of graduating seniors who have just learned that they will be sent to Tibet instead of being assigned the important posts that they were promised at the beginning of the training. After virtually destroying the camp, many of the soldiers end up deserting from the army before they reach their remote posts. The army does little to retaliate against the new graduates as they do not wish to offend their powerful families nor call attention to the unpopularity among the troops of the action against Tibet. Meihong continues to file her falsely positive reports, in order to please her superior officers, and is eventually graduated as a young army officer. In 1988, Meihong is assigned to the Center for Chinese and American Studies, a joint venture between Nanjing University and Johns Hopkins, where she meets and falls in love with Larry Engelmann, a visiting American. Her betrayal is discovered by the secret police, and she is arrested and interrogated for being involved with an enemy agent. Although her life is spared, her career is ruined, and her future possibilities are very limited upon her release. She is eventually able to get a message to Engelmann, and the two are married in 1990 after great bureaucratic difficulties. Not much as a sophisticated history or political analysis of China, but a fairly riveting love story nevertherless.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1999
ISBN: 0-471-35673-5
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999