Chinese novelist Zheng is gifted with the ability to make an engrossing story of a village's mundane quest for water. Old Well, a Chinese mountain village afflicted with drought for much of its 1000 years, has seen life forced into ``a pattern of bitterness and despair.'' But in the early 1980s the village finds hope for the perennial search for water, and for ultimate survival, in youthful Wangquan, educated in geology, and Qiaoying, well-versed in agronomy. Wangquan and Qiaoying also happen to be passionately--and futilely--in love; Wangquan is committed to a high-powered arranged marriage. His conflict results in a veritable tug-of-war between traditional village existence and modern ways, his deep feelings for Qiaoying, who longs for the freedom and urbanity of Beijing, pitted against Wangquan's ``love for this patch of bone-dry earth and his well.'' Zheng skillfully sprinkles bits of Chinese magic and myth throughout the tale. (Oct.)
This novel from contemporary China tells the story of life in Old Well, a peasant village struggling against a perennial lack of water. Sun Wangquan is continuing the family tradition of digging new wells, a task that has claimed the lives of several of his ancestors, but he is the first to apply modern scientific methods. Much of the narrative is devoted to the love triangle of Sun Wangquan, his traditional wife Duan Xifeng, and the modern woman Zhao Qiaoying who has captured his heart. The love story pales next to the more compelling search for water and the blood sacrifices the land demands before yielding it. Recommended where there is a strong interest in China or in contemporary international fiction.-- Debbie Tucker, Cincinnati Technical Coll.