Unbelievably, this is a first novel – matchless!
Like several other reviewers at the time I was absolutely convinced I was reading an autobiography, the whole style of the book felt completely authentic and ‘written from within’.
I had to check and check again the author’s own ‘bio-blurb’ to verify – no this wasn’t autobiography, she was born in the ‘States in the 50’s, not born in Shanghai in the 30’s.
The book is an account of a child’s world, growing up in Shanghai before and during the Second World War
Inevitably, I was reminded to some extent of Ballard’s ‘Empire of the Sun’, but this is written from the perspective of a small girl, and is as much about the father/daughter relationship as it is about China in the 2nd world war and beyond.
Beautiful, moving, redemptive, I found myself in a storm of tears at several points – precisely because it all seemed so real in the relating of parent/child complexities, so unlike a ‘story’ about this. My tears came not from ‘identifying with the heroine’ – I didn’t – but because the ‘truthfulness’ – which seemed autobiographical – took me into universals, and made me experience, in a very deep way, my own bonds and debts to my parents.
It took nearly 10 years for Caldwell to produce book number two (this one was published in 2002, the second in 2010. City Of Tranquil Light is wending its way through the postal system, to join the tottering pile of ‘real’ to be read books, a third party seller proving to be massively cheaper than the Kindle version!