Sunday, September 18, 2011
Book Review of East Wind by Julie Ellis
Author Name: Julie Ellis
Publisher: Arbor House New York
Type of book: Adult, China, 1902-1948, melodramatic, Jewish, Israel
Year it was published: 1983
From the author of Glorious Morning, a saga that sweeps through two world wars, set against the backdrops of Hong Kong, England and America, about a proud, beautiful young woman who is caught up in the ageless struggle between reckless passion and staunch commitment-and who makes a life for herself in which she can have both. Sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Hong Kong after the untimely death of her parents, Constance Levy meets a brilliant, complex young man who leads her into the deep recesses of her heart, where she must come face-to-face with her own abiding faith as a Jew. After a tragic misunderstanding tears the lovers apart, she builds a family of her own, silently enduring loneliness and anger...and emerges to embrace her one true love, as well as her faith. A story of a woman's search for self-fulfillment, woven into a special time, an exotic place.
Although in some ways Constance was an admirable woman, to me her story seemed a little Mary Sue like. As mentioned, I didn't feel a lot of chemistry or liking between her and Sam. I also had a difficult time believing that so many men had fallen in love with her: (In his own way, Elliot, David Field, Sam, possibly the Japanese colonel?) I also felt hurt that the author didn't detail the Jewish marriage between Sam and Constance, when author constantly reminded everyone of how much she couldn't live without Sam, etc. In honesty I liked Sam, but kind of wish that she'd explore his personality deeper, or that he at least could have had a bigger role, towards the end in particular.
I think the theme is that being Jewish is more than just religion and superficial trivialities, and its important to preserve and celebrate the heritage. Also, Israel is very important to Judaism.
It was told in third person point of view, in some cases it was omniscient, as in we get to see inside Sam's head, and in many instances it was limited. I also feel that the author doesn't spend enough time in different time periods, and a lot of it is skipped, especially towards the middle years from 1920s up to the World War II. The historical sections tend to be dry and aren't woven in, in a right way.
Julie Ellis is the author of, among others, Glorious Morning, published by Arbor House, and The Hampton Heritage and The Hampton Women. She makes her home in New York City. (She died in 2006)
I only read this book because I heard that the love interest is from Kaifeng China. (Located in Henan Province.) Thus I thought that the male protagonist would, *ahem* look Asian. Although the love interest was born in Kaifeng and all, he appears to be more Caucasian than Asian. "At twenty Sam was tall and slender, with tawny hair, lightly tanned skin, hazel eyes, and sharp features. Born Samuel Shih- the clan name bestowed on his family by the Chinese centuries ago-he had Anglicized his name at the urging of Mr. Franks, his sponsor since he had been brought from Kaifeng, the beautiful ancient capital of Hunan Province." (page 17 from East Wind.) By 20th century, I have high doubts that Kaifeng Jews with Sam's description existed. Unfortunately that was not the only one thing that irked me. Another thing that irked me are the incorrect names bestowed upon Asian servants. Sakota sounds more Japanese than Chinese, and Japanese language does not have an "L" sound! I also found the chemistry between Sam and Constance hard to digest. If perhaps the author wrote more of their meetings it might have been easier, but right away they are declared to be in love. Also, for one reason or another, this book made me think of Cynthia Freeman's Portraits, maybe the opposite effect because it seemed that in Portraits the family lost its Jewishness, while in this one the characters preserved it.
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)