For a long journey with characters you’ll fall in love with, for a narrative that places you more as an observer than an active participant
It is 1938 in China and, as a young wife, Meilin’s future is bright. But with the Japanese army approaching, Meilin and her four year old son, Renshu, are forced to flee their home. Relying on little but their wits and a beautifully illustrated hand scroll, filled with ancient fables that offer solace and wisdom, they must travel through a ravaged country, seeking refuge.
Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. Though his daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down? Yet how can Lily learn who she is if she can never know her family’s story?
Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the haunting question: What would it mean to finally be home?
My note in my book at the end:
“The last words are the title and it’s so perfect and fitting it brought a tear to my eye.”
The title fable was gently included throughout, referenced in various situations. Along with other folktales, this book had so many smaller stories within it that resonated with me a surprising amount. Those were the moments I was most entrance by this story: when they unrolled the scroll, ran their fingers over the silken strands, and fully envisioned each scene before sinking into the tale. I was right there with them in those moments.
The majority of the story is very descriptive-focused, though it didn’t feel as though it was dragging. The pace is strangely fast considering several generations are followed through this near-century of time, but each moment simultaneously feels endless due to the emotion. I guess I’d peg it as a medium-paced book considering those two factors. If a lack of dialogue is a challenge, you might not love this story or it might be a little harder to read through. There is very little, although I wasn’t as affected as I usually am. In fact I recently finished another book with very little dialogue that felt like a slog, and this one had none of that.
Chinese history of the 1800-1900s isn’t too foreign to me after all the reading I’ve done, but yet, I still learn new things each time. I love connecting this to other books I’ve read during that time, and it also expanded even further than I’ve seen before. Journeying and almost endless travel is the theme of their lives, and the places they went were new to me. What hit me the strongest was how what I learned in this historical novel resonated so clearly with recent events. It put the world as I know it into a new light.
Anyway, I enjoyed this book. It was a calmer read despite some of the heavy topics and difficult scenes. I think the sparse dialogue helped me distance myself from it a bit and avoid getting really troubled in my own emotions from the pain of the situations. That’s kind of a blessing and a curse, so take it as you will.
Got an advanced copy through Book of the Month, publishes 3/15/22!