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Chapter 26 - At the Chinese Table

Periodically I am sent books to read and review. Sometimes I get to request a book and At the Chinese Table by Carolyn Phillips is one of these. It is a memoir of China which also contains recipes. When I received it and started looking through it, it occurred to me that everything I know about China has come from books. At the Chinese Table doesn't reference mainland China but Taiwan, which I really know nothing about.

While I haven't read this book as yet, I couldn't help but think about all the books I've read which have China as their location. It would appear that I have read quite a few. Here are some of my favorites and if you have read a book which takes place in Taiwan, could you let me know?

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck - I reread this book periodically since I read it first in 12th grade English. The Good Earth was published in 1931 and is a story about Chinese family life in the early 20th century. The story begins on Wang Lung's and O-Lan's wedding day and follows the rise and fall of his fortunes. Buck followed The Good Earth with The Sons and A House Divided about the same family. The last two books are harder to find.

Pearl of China by Anchee Min - After you read The Good Earth you have to read Pearl of China which is a fictionalized account of Pearl Buck's life as a young girl. Pearl Buck was the daughter of missionaries who were in China. This story is told by Willow, her childhood best friend. Anchee Min has written other books which take place in China.

Unbound by Dean King - In 1934, following threats by the Chinese Nationalists to destroy their village in remote southeastern China, 30 women fled with Mao Tse-tung’s Red Army. They were not only fleeing certain destruction but the social restrictions of an ancient society that relegated women to menial lives of servitude, poverty, arranged marriage, and bound feet and life prospects. In what became known as the Long March, the army and the women trekked 4,000 miles in one year to forge resistance to Chiang Kai-shek’s repressive regime and to find new lives for themselves.

Waiting by Ha Jin - Every summer Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, returns to his village to end his loveless arranged marriage with the humble and touchingly loyal Shuyu who is so good and takes care of Lin Kong's parents. But each time Lin must return to the city to tell Manna Wu, the nurse he loves, that they will have to postpone their engagement once again. Trapped by a culture in which adultery can ruin lives and careers, Lin has been waiting for eighteen years. This year, he promises will be different. This story takes place during China's cultural revolution.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - In 1948, four women meet in San Francisco having recently immigrated from China. The stories they bring, the children they raise, and the lives they make here are richly described in this novel. As the four women meet weekly for mahjong, dim sum, and to talk, their four daughters realize they don't actually know their mothers and what the women have lost or gained by coming to the US.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford - For Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World's Fair feels like a gift. But only once he's there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off--a healthy boy "to a good home." The home he goes to is a brothel and that is where his adventures begin.

Are there any books which take place in China that you love? Please let me know!


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