Dream of the Walled City
Lisa Huang Fleischman
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Marking the debut of a stunning new literary talent, Lisa Huang Fleischman's extraordinary saga -- inspired by her grandmother's life as an early feminist, political activist, and friend of Mao Zedong -- is a masterpiece about one clever and resourceful woman, growing up amidst the turmoil of twentieth-century China.
Dream of the Walled City
Born in 1890, the privileged and sheltered daughter of a high-ranking imperial official, Jade Virtue spends her childhood enclosed by the towering walls of her family's sprawling mansion, never glimpsing the desperate struggle of China's ancient society, as the old ways are challenged and the twentieth century?fast, fearsome, and tumultuous?rushes in. But when her father mysteriously dies, young Jade Virtue is suddenly thrust into poverty, and experiences firsthand a traditional culture falling apart under the onslaught of growing rebellion against the Emperor, rapid social changes, and the mounting aggression of Japan and the West.
Fleischman has rendered a richly textured, panoramic vision of Chinese life in the perilous years between the end of the empire and the Communist triumph of 1949, charting Jade Virtue's arranged first marriage to the corrupt opium addict Wang Mang, who harbors a terrible secret in his family's past; her awakening independence and ambivalent politics; her struggles with motherhood; and her fascinating acquaintance with a gifted, idealistic, fiercely ambitious young man named Mao Zedong. But the most important choices of her life are shaped by her conflicting loyalties to her intense lifelong friendship with Jinyu, a fiery woman revolutionary, and to Guai, a government official and sworn enemy of the Communists, with whom she finally discovers true and redemptive love.
Exquisitely nuanced and lyrical yet marked with a driving power, Dream Of The Walled City is an enthralling novel of hard-won personal independence set against the vivid backdrop of a rapidly changing world. From the final days of the last dynasty through the savage Japanese invasion during World War II to the formidable red dawn of the Communist triumph; from the backward rural province of Hunan to exile on the tropical shores of Taiwan; and from the binding chains of predetermined fate to the exhilarating liberation of a human spirit, this is a remarkable odyssey you will never forget.
looked like a very poor peasant, and her face was completely without expression, which made it the face of a stranger. I stepped in front of them. The peasant stopped and looked at me, putting his head to one side in a sort of friendly curiosity, still holding his charge’s hand. But he said nothing, which was unsettling. Patience stared straight ahead, blinking softly against the sunlight, but she showed no signs of greeting me or recognizing me. Looking into her pupils, which held no feeling or
spy, weren’t you?” “Yes.” “You knew him from Paris.” “Yes. He was my lover before I married. He was so fiery and radical then. We heard he had become a spy for the Guomindang, but then he disappeared for a long time. I was the only one left here who recognized him. The only one left here who had gone to Paris.” I leaned against the wall, and she leaned against me, draping herself in an exhausted way against my shoulder, like a child. She was even thinner now, while I had grown stout, and
in the hall, left the front door standing open behind me as I walked away, without a shiver or a backward glance. We crouched in the back of the bullock cart, and the farmer threw a piece of old sacking over us. I pressed my cheek against the rough wood of the cart bed and smelled the earth and manure from the fields. The air grew slightly cooler, and I clung to Guai’s hand. Then the cart pulled over to a side street in a poor section of town. “We wait here for an hour or so,” the farmer
gown. The three posed for wedding photographs, holding their solemn expressions for minutes at a time while the photographer burrowed under his black cloth. Then there was a blinding flash, and a gust of flash powder puffed out over the room like a sandstorm. The three portrait subjects rubbed their eyes, Mao laughing in delight. The photographer straightened and frowned at Mao. “Don’t smile please, sir,” he said, annoyed. “You have to look serious for a wedding photograph. Now, again.”
if waiting for me to answer was as pleasurable a way to pass the time as any other. “I don’t fear change,” I said finally. “My life, once I married, was without hope or tenderness. My days were bitter. Any change could only be better than what I had before.” Zhao finished his apple and placed the core delicately at the edge of the plate. He wiped his hands on a linen towel. “I think you will remarry, Mrs. Pan,” he said, as he did these things. “Your heart is tender. You will marry a man you