Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review of Love in a Fallen City by Ailing Zhang

Name of Book: Love in a Fallen City

Author: Ailing Zhang

ISBN:  (from Norton Anthology Vol F.) 0-393-97760-9

Publisher: Norton Company

Type of book: China, 1940-1942? divorce, family, Hong Kong, love, overseas Chinese

Year it was published: 1940s

(from Norton Anthology Vol. F 2736)

Love in a Fallen City begins with the heroine Liusu trapped in the relationships of the Chinese family. In her late twenties, Liusu has been divorced for seven or eight years; her ex-husband has just died, and his family wants her back for ritual purposes, to play the role of the grieving widow in the funeral ceremony and perhaps to adopt a son to carry on her ex-husband's family line...Liusu wants the security of a marriage, but on her own terms, and she invites teh attentions of a rich playbo, Liuyuan, who a matchmaker had arranged to meet her sister. Liusu dances with Liuyuan, who a matchmaker had arranged to meet her sister. Liusu dances with Liuyan at their first meeting, and the couple continues to dance in a literal and figurative snese for much of the rest of the story.


Basically there are a few characters; that of Liusu, her "lover" Liuyuan as well as Liusu's family that seems to treat her as if she's nothing. I think its because I was born in the West rather than the East, thus I had difficult time understanding the latter half of the novel, of when somehow Liuyuan made Liusu his lover. Liusu was married previously but wasn't happy and thus she got a divorce. She is without children. There is Liuyuan who grew up in England, a son of a concubine or a lover rather than a wife. He pursues Liusu but only through drastic measures does he manage capture her. Both of the characters are an enigma and I couldn't understand them or their thought processes.


Through one event or one moment in time we will realize if we are in love.


This is in third person narrative from Liusu's point of view. It details of how she lived with her family, the hopeful marriage of her younger sister, although oddly enough it skipped over the part where Liusu and Liuyuan locked eyes for the first time. After the meeting, Liuyuan pursues her and somehow creates circumstances where she doesn't have a choice but to be with him. I'm afraid that if I should talk further on about the story, I'll mention spoilers.

Author Information:
(from wikipedia.org)

Eileen Chang (simplified Chinese: 张爱玲; traditional Chinese: 張愛玲; pinyin: Zhāng Ailíng; Cantonese Yale: Zoeng Oiling) (September 30, 1920 – September 8, 1995) was a Chinese writer. Her most famous works include Lust, Caution and Love in a Fallen City.

She is noted for her fiction writings that deal with the tensions between men and women in love, and are considered by some scholars to be among the best Chinese literature of the period. Chang's portrayal of life in 1940s Shanghai and Japanese-occupied Hong Kong is remarkable in its focus on everyday life and the absence of the political subtext which characterised many other writers of the period. Taiwanese author Yuan Qiongqiong drew inspiration from Eileen Chang. Poet and University of Southern California professor Dominic Cheung commented "had it not been for the political division between the Nationalist and Communist Chinese, she would have almost certainly won a Nobel Prize".[1]

Chang's enormous popularity and famed image were in distinct contrast to her personal life, which was marred by disappointment, tragedy, increasing reclusiveness, and ultimately her sudden death from cardiovascular disease at age 74.


I got this short story in Norton Anthology Vol.F, and I'm not mentioning it to promote it, but because I read that this story came with other short stories in another anthology. I felt it was educational when it came to China, but at the same time there was bitterness in the story and I had a difficult time understanding how the two characters realized they were in love. There was a lot that should have been talked about and instead this becomes almost a prologue or a surface story of what should have been longer. The story is pleasing to my senses but I feel that it didn't leave me any long lasting message that I could ponder about over and over.

4 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.)

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