Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sam Meekings novel Under Fishbone Clouds is a tremendous, poetic read. The story is about the long marriage of Jinyi and Yuying, he from a poor peasant family, she an educated girl, daughter of a restaurent owner. Their marriage is arranged, in that Yuying isn't given a choice, it was decided by her parents. The point of view of the story is unusual, in that it is the Kitchen God who tells us the tale, through various reported conversations with The Jade Emperor and through a third person narrative.This is a bit confusing at first, but becomes easier to understand as the story progresses. Although apparently the story of a marriage and a family, the novel is also the story of modern China, from 1946 to the present day. The changes and upheavals that Chinese society goes through in that period is reflected in the events that happen to Jinyi and Yuying and their family.

Although I did find this somewhat depressing at times because of the awfulness of many of the events that occur, as well as the frequent mentions of dirt, lack of cleanliness, spitting and generally appalling poverty, the characters did grab my attention and I really felt I wanted to find out what happened to them, for good or ill. The writing is also extremely beautiful and the mention of many ancient Chinese myths and legends make this a very impressive debut of a novel.

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