FROM A FAR LAND by Robert Elegant


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A brand-new, effortfully sweeping China opus from the creator of Dynasty, Manchu and Mandarin, this one spanning 1921-1952, and set primarily in Shanghai. In 1952, wai-kuo tai tai (foreign lady) Julia Pavernan Howe is escorted politely but firmly out of China by Premier Chou En-lai, who is barely troubled when a Shanghai businessman commits suicide by throwing himself under Chou's limousine. Now back to 1921: a 20-year-old Julia enters Shanghai with her Chinese girlfriend from Bryn Mawr, Emily Howe, and is ushered into the wealthy and privileged world of Emily's merchantbaron family. Julia is not supposed to fall in love with Emily's doctor-brother, the dashing and idealistic Tommy Howe, but of course she does, and the family closes its eyes while its favorite son sows his wild oats with the Western girl. Meanwhile, Emily defies tradition by having an affair with American journalist Richard Hollings (modeled on Edgar Snow) and refusing an arranged marriage. Both Julia and Emily also work for various liberal-revolutionary causes. Emily is mainly for Chiang Kai-shek, though that changes; Julia is mainly for the more radical faction (though not the Communists as they ultimately emerge). Emily finally accepts marriage to a Chinese, and is betrayed by the journalist whose mistress she has remained. To almost no one's pleasure, Julia does marry Tommy, and both are at least lukewarm toward the Communists when Mao's crowd takes charge in 1949. Julia's eviction, witnessed in the prologue, turns out to be part of the anti-Western drive, and the big question is: Is Tommy Howe still alive? Julia won't find out until she crosses the border. Entertaining and reasonably accurate, if laughably pulpy, yawningly broad, and full of central events in modern Chinese history, all chancing to take place within its 512 pages.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1987
Publisher: Random House