THE GINGER TREE by Oswald Wynd
Kirkus Star


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Scottish Mary's marvelously resonant, unhurried odyssey--1903-1942--begins and ends aboard ships, ships that, in a sense, never bring her home. Young Mary, urged on by her widowed mother in Edinburgh (who will soon disown her forever), is shipped out to marry Richard, a British military attachÉ in Peking. Richard is an impossible prig to whom she bears a daughter, Jane. In spite of virtual purdah, Mary thrives--bolstered by Jane, some lively friends, and such Chinese delights as an audience with the Dowager Empress: she ""was talking from her dragon throne, but though I could see the grey lips moving, the sound almost seemed to come from the aisles. . . a series of squeaks."" But then, inexplicably, Mary loves and becomes pregnant by a Japanese officer, pulled by a strange drift and undertow: ""the mystery of the Samurai warrior who sat stoically in the rising sun to ask forgiveness for the deaths of his soldiers."" Cast out, her daughter lost to her, Mary travels to Japan ""under the protection"" of her lover, who, discovering that their son appears Japanese, takes him away to be raised with relatives. Twisting her way alone to self-sufficiency, Mary, like the ginger tree growing alien but stubborn shoots in a Japanese garden, survives: ""out here is the bed I've made for myself. . . and I am now able to afford a very comfortable mattress."" But she will always refuse marriage--this perennial foreigner who has been scorched by possession. Wynd maneuvers skillfully among Chinese and Japanese mores and landscapes--an acute selection from the author's apparently vast, engaged knowledge of the East. A completely diverting and moving tracery of the hardening destiny of a nation and the quiet shriveling of one heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row