Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This hefty, sometimes moving but melodramatic epic recounts the woes of a Chinese-American mixed marriage during the early 1900s. Hope, a young teacher, and Liang, one of her Chinese students (renamed Paul), meet in San Francisco in 1906. After Liang rescues Hope from the wreckage of the 1906 earthquake, the two young people defy their parents and marry. As a mixed couple, Paul and Hope suffer bigotryfirst in America, and later when they go to China, but this problem pales in comparison to the trials Hope faces within her marriage. Obsessed with bringing democracy into China, Paul is deeply embroiled in the country's volatile politics, from the overthrow of the Manchus to the war with Japan. Although the couple lives in luxury, with an entourage of servants, Hope must frequently uproot her young family as they move around the country. The book's overwhelming refrain becomes her unheeded plea for Paul to give up his risky political work. The novel's colorful historical context often prompts Liu (Face; Solitaire) into purple prose, and the drama sometimes runs dangerously close to movie-of-the-week sensationalism. And while Liu records any slight against Hope, she is surprisingly quick to stereotype other characters, such as the two other brides with whom Hope travels, a hard-drinking slutty Irish woman and a beefy Scandinavian type. This myopia and Hope's whining throughout the relatively easier parts of her life make her a difficult character to sympathize with. Luckily, her attitude improves toward the book's end, and she bears up well under some truly frightening experiences. Literary Guild alternate; first serial to Good Housekeeping; foreign rights sold in Germany, Holland and the U.K.; simultaneous Time Warner audio. (June) FYI: Liu based Cloud Mountain on the lives of her American grandmother and Chinese grandfather.
Warner Books, which has been highly successful with such bittersweet romances as Robert James Waller's The Bridges of Madison County and Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook, offers another winner in the category. Like Sparks, Liu (Faces, LJ 8/94) based her novel on the lives of her grandparents. The book has epic ambitions, capturing the sweep of the historical era between 1900 and 1941 by using descriptive detail and incident quite effectively. Hope Newfield, the central character, is a California teacher tutoring Asian students in English. One of her students is Liang Po-yu, a scholar-revolutionary and friend of Sun Yat-sen, who wants to bring democracy to China. The novel is the history of their marriage, conceived in love but torn by bigotry and racism on the part of both Oriental and Occidental. The prose has a haunting, lyrical quality and an aura of authenticity. Recommended for all popular fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/97.]Jacqueline Seewald, Red Bank Regional H.S., Little Silver, N.J.
From Chinese-American writer Liu (Face, 1994, etc.), a riveting, bittersweet second novel about a marriage tested by race, culture, and history as an American woman and her Chinese husband navigate the treacherous waters of politics in the pre-Mao years.
Loosely based on Liu's own grandparents' experience, the story begins in 1941 when Hope Newfield, living in Los Angeles, receives a three-year-old letter from her husband in China asking if she still has a place in her heart for him. The letter moves Hope to look back over the events that brought the couple together and tore them apart. They had met in 1906, when she was living in Oakland and tutoring Chinese students. Leong Po-yo, a new pupil, is the only son of a noble family and a follower of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Teacher and student are soon attracted to each other, and when Leong rescues Hope after the 1906 earthquake, they admit their love and decide to marry. They do so in Evanston, Wyoming, one of the few towns that allows "mixed" marriages, but they're quickly subject to racial slurs from both Americans and Chinese. Still, life is sweet, and the first of several children are born; but then, in 1911, revolution breaks out in China and Leong hurries back, followed shortly by Hope. From then on, their lives are shaped by Leong's political activities. Hope becomes a photographer and journalist; she and her children are shunned by both Chinese and European society. The marriage is further tested when China is pulled apart by civil war. Dispirited, Hope returns with her children to California in 1932, and though she goes back in 1942 in response to Leong's letter, she accepts that the two of them, victims of time and place, will always be "separate and distinct."
A moving tale of true love, besieged by politics and prejudice, that nonetheless survives the tumultuous times Liu so vividly and intelligently describes.