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Nanjing 1937: A Love Story

by Ye Zhaoyan

If a standard historical romance uses a factual setting to dress up the plot, this is the opposite. Overtly and directly it derives from the politics of the Nationalist government in Nanjing and the outbreak of war between China and Japan. But it's real theme is love, and specifically if a disillusioned, dissolute man can ever find true love. A genuine Chinese atmosphere breathes through the social background, the characterisation and the dialogue. A personal question is if the tendency toward American slang works: for me on balance it did.

Extract

When Yu Kexia and his wife got involved, the whole thing became even more complicated. At first each couple holed themselves up, nagging away for each other's ears to hear, but gradually things came out in the open. It seemed that a bout of tangled warfare would be inevitable, even though in all probability no one really wanted to argue and make such a mess out of a simple affair. Yu Kexia's wife shouted at her husband: 'Didn't you ever hear the saying "Thy friend's wife, one shall not take advantage of"? This shameless friend of yours really is something! You treat him like he is some kind of little treasure, when you're actually inviting a wolf into your home!'
Translated by Michael Berry

Parallels

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard
Waiting by Ha Jin
 

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