Tuesday, March 9, 2010

52 books in 52 weeks: Book 3: The Jade Peony

So. Book 3. Only book 3? Already book 3? I know. I'm not sure how I feel about it either at this point, 3 books in. Regardless, I said I was going to do it, so I am. Let's get to it!

The Jade Peony, by Wayson Choy.


I had heard of this book through CBC's Canada Reads, an annual reading event where 5 Canadian fiction books are chosen, read and debated as to which is *the Best* or something like that. I hadn't yet read The Jade Peony, so I googled it, read the back cover and was convinced it was a perfect read. Why? Well, first of all it takes place in Chinatown, Vancouver in the late 1930's and 40's - an area I know little about - and a history I know little about. And the Olympics were coming up. Perfecto! Also, check out the outline provided on the Canada Read's website for this book:

Wayson Choy's poignant, award-winning debut novel, The Jade Peony, is told from the point of view of three siblings who come of age in Vancouver's Chinatown during the Depression and war years.

Jook-Liang, the family's only girl, and her brothers Jung-Sum and Sek-Lung (nicknamed Sekky) were all born in Canada, but their parents and the rest of the family are recent immigrants. The children grow up torn between the reality of their lives outside the family circle and the old-world traditions that prevail at home.

The children are drawn to figures from North American popular culture, from cowboys to Shirley Temple, but they're also captivated by the magical stories told by Poh-Poh, their grandmother. Her mythic tales feature ghosts, dragons and characters from Chinese folklore such as the Monkey King and the scary Fox Lady.

The three have very different experiences of life in their family and the world at large. Sekky, the youngest, witnesses a love affair between his Chinese-Canadian babysitter and a young man of Japanese heritage, which plays out against the backdrop of the racism that flourished during the Second World War.

The Jade Peony is a sensitive depiction of the collision between cultures that all newcomers experience — and the conflicts within families that can arise as a result. It's also a vivid evocation of the division between the world of adults and the world of childhood, rendered with insight, humour and grace.

Wayson Choy's tale began life as a short story of the same name, which was widely anthologized in Canada and the U.S. after its publication in 1979. The novel, published in 1995, won both Ontario's Trillium Book Award and the City of Vancouver Book Award and garnered glowing reviews at home and abroad.

What can I say, other than I loved it, I read it very quickly and didn't want it to end? Not much! Everything that has been written about this wonderful book is bang on, I definitely recommend it!

So this one was short & sweet. Oh well. Book 4 is coming soon! I am currently on schedule reading wise, and had thought I would easily get 2 books posts up a week that are slightly better written, but I haven't so far. I am working on that.

happy tuesday leel

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