The Middle Heart

The Middle Heart

by Bette Bao Lord Enterprises, Inc.
     
 

It is the summer of 1932, the year the Japanese conquered Manchuria, China's northeast region. Three children meet and become best friends for the summer, and blood brothers for a lifetime. They are: Steel Hope, the second son of the House of Li, a once-great clan which survives now on handouts from his grandfather, a merchant who trafficks whith the Japanese;

Overview

It is the summer of 1932, the year the Japanese conquered Manchuria, China's northeast region. Three children meet and become best friends for the summer, and blood brothers for a lifetime. They are: Steel Hope, the second son of the House of Li, a once-great clan which survives now on handouts from his grandfather, a merchant who trafficks whith the Japanese; Steel Hope's "bookmate," Mountain Pine, Steel Hope's servant and conscience; and the irrepressible Firecrackers, daughter of the Li's gravekeeper, who masquerades as a boy to take the place of a brother killed years earlier by the Japanese. At the end of the summer a tragic event — a good deed gone awry — splits them apart until they are grown.

During the subsequent years of war and cultural upheaval, the destinies of the three friends are realized — their loyalty to each other tested by the demands of politics and patriotism, and by the question of where honor and obligation lie when confronted by love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Three unlikely companions find their bond tested throughout 50 cataclysmic years of war and upheaval in modern China. (July)
Library Journal
In 1919 a son is born to the honorable House of Lee in China. He grows to adolescence under the care of his servant and "bookmate." They make friends with a street urchin, only to find that "he" is a girl. Despite this shortcoming, she is invited to form a brotherhood with the boys; they will do good deeds and fight the Japanese, who have just conquered Manchuria. The upheavals of life and Chinese history separate and reunite the friends. Each of the boys, now men, falls in love with the street urchin-turned-actress and, at different times, each marries her. The House of Lee falls in the Communist Revolution, but the trio survives the purges and pogroms. Time, however, takes its toll, leaving only the son of the House of Lee and a teenaged cousin to uphold the family name and tradition of honor. Lord reads her own work with feeling and grace. As with most abridgments, something is lost, but overall the story is adequately told, conveying both the history of those turbulent times and its effect on the people who survived them. Recommended.Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence
School Library Journal
YASteel Hope, second son of the once-powerful House of Li; Mountain Pine, his crippled servant and `"bookmate"; and Firecrackers, a gravekeeper's daughter who disguises herself as a boy, form an unlikely friendship during the years of turmoil in China of the 1930s. Their paths diverge as China descends into chaos and war. Firecrackers becomes Summer Wishes, an opera singer who learns to hide her fears and perform with bombs falling close by; Steel Hope is an engineer and bureaucrat who joins the communist underground to fight the Japanese and puts loyalty to the revolution above all else; Mountain Pine becomes a writer and a hermit, but learns he can't run away from his feelings. War, revolution, the vagaries of Communist rule, and family loyalties test the friendship of the three, and their final reunion is bittersweet. Lord brings her knowledge of China and her gift of storytelling to this tale of friendship and love set against the backdrop of modern history. YAs will glimpse a different culture and enjoy a gripping story of the triumph of the human spirit.Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Donna Seaman
Lord's first novel of China, "Spring Moon" (1981), was a resounding success; her second is every bit as spellbinding even as it reflects the traumatic realities of modern China from the barbarities of the cultural revolution to the horrors of Tiananmen Square. The story begins in the early 1930s, when three young people forge an unlikely alliance that survives five decades of loss and love. There's Steel Hope, the second son of the head of the once noble and powerful Li family; Mountain Pine, his "bookmate" and retainer; and a destitute girl posing as a boy named Firecrackers. The novel's early sections sparkle with hope and joy as the three devoted friends romp and grow, but personal tragedy and war soon intrude. Lord is as adept at dramatizing cultural upheaval as she is at depicting affairs of the heart as she relates all the adventures, catastrophes, and bitter ironies that rule the lives of her protagonists. Firecrackers evolves into Summer Wishes, a beautiful actress with a heart-stealing voice, but she is forced to turn her art into propaganda. Mountain Pine would have been a poet in a gentler era but instead spends many years in a labor camp. In saner circumstances, Steel Hope would have been a minister of engineering by day and a bon vivant at night, but he gets swept up first in the wave of reform, then in the surge of violence and repression. The brutality of their times also wreaks havoc on their relationships, and they suffer within the perimeters of a painful love triangle. All in all, this is a powerfully affecting, can't-put-it-down read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780394534329
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/06/1996
Edition description:
1st Edition
Pages:
370
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.26(d)

Meet the Author

Bette Bao Lord was born in Shanghai in 1938. She emigrated to America with her parents during China's Civil War; they settled in Brooklyn, where she grew up. She attended Tufts University and received an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she met her husband, Winston Lord, who was the American Ambassador to China from November 1985 through April 1989.

Bette Bao Lord has received a number of awards, including honorary doctorates from Tufts and Notre Dame, and in 1989 was named a "woman of the year" (along with Simone Weil) by the International Women's Forum (other honorees include Margaret Thatcher and Corazon Aquino). She is currently the chair of the Freedom Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >