My recent China reads II

Baby Z is growing, as is the numbers of books ticked off my ‘to read’ list, most recently the following.

Year of the Fire Dragons by Shannon Young
This memoir had been on my to read list for almost a year, since my trip to Hong Kong last Autumn, where I attended a book launch for How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit, of which Shannon is the editor. I love reading about people’s lives here in China (or Hong Kong in Shannon’s case), especially when they are taking place so close in time to now. You can really build a picture of the story. Shannon is pretty much the same age as me, has spent time in the UK studying abroad (I also studied abroad during my degree), lives in Hong Kong, and was in a long distance relationship (which I’ve also experienced), so I feel I have a good grasp for the cultural context of her story.
I enjoyed how she described the city scenes, as I’m a big fan of Hong Kong, and I was really impressed by how she settled in, without the help of her boyfriend. Such an independent woman.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Gilman
Following My recent China reads I, another blogger recommended this book as one she liked but hadn’t expected to. Susan’s memoir took place in the 1980s, just as China was first opening for travel. The China she found was very different to the China I live in today, and it’s fascinating to hear about what it was like from her similarly Western perspective. Susan faced not only the cultural/linguistic challenges and the challenges of travelling for the first time, but also dealing with her troubled travel partner, and showed immense courage in facing these challenges. I love a happy ending, and returning to Asia to complete her year of travel is certainly that, but it’s a shame she doesn’t know what happened to her travel partner, as it left me very curious.

The Woman who lost China by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang
This was recommended to me by Amazon and is a historical novel which spans over a century. I liked that it touched on some parts of history that I haven’t read much about, for example before the Chinese revolution in 1912 and what was happening in Hong Kong during the civil war in China. The order of events was a bit confusing as it starts with the main character, Manying’s, movements in 1949, leaving mainland China for Hong Kong, then goes back to 1894 and her family’s experience in imperialist China. What really touched me was the trouble of Manying to feed her baby on the long train ride from Nanjing to Hong Kong, after having used a wet nurse for the baby’s first 4 months, and having very limited water supplies on the train. But what can I say, I’m a very emotional new mother!

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