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The Magpie Bridge

The Magpie Bridge

by Liu Hong

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A love story, a ghost story, a journey to a family's heart.


A love story, a ghost story, a journey to a family's heart.

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First published in Great Britain, where Hong has lived since 1989, this schematic US debut twines the story of a young woman's life in contemporary England with the history of her ancestors in China. Jiao Mei is in London studying sociology, thanks to the efforts of her mentor Barbara. They met years earlier when Barbara, traveling in China, fell in love with Mei's now-deceased father, a botanist reduced to working as a gardener under communism. Mei is involved with Ken, an architect, and has tricked him into impregnating her so that she can stay in England. Now, she begins to receive nightly visits from the spirit of her grandmother. Tie Mei has come to protect her granddaughter from those she sees as dangerous foreigners and to avenge wrongs done to her family. In Barbara's room, she discovers a small bronze mirror that was stolen in 1860 from Tie's grandmother by a British soldier. Soon Barbara, an artist and gardener, loses her sense of smell and shows other vague signs of failing health, which ultimately proves to be a brain tumor that may or may not have been the result of the mirror's curse. Meanwhile, Tie shares with Mei ancient legends and the painful history of their family. Mei tries to balance their supernatural connection with her daily life, as she grows increasingly concerned about Barbara and negotiates an up-and-down relationship with Ken. He remains, however, a plot device with no discernible personality, especially in contrast to Hong's complex portrait of Barbara's lover Bill. After Mei gives birth to a healthy baby, Tie fades away as a spirit to return as the family tree in Barbara's garden. Despite flashes of insight and precision, for the most part Tie's stories arecontrived and self-consciously exotic, while Mei's odyssey is strangely lifeless. Together they don't add up to a whole. Agent: Jessica Woollard/Toby Eady Associates

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Headline Book Publishing, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.81(w) x 5.37(h) x 0.66(d)

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