Avenue of Eternal Peace

Nicholas Jose, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-24964-1
Author Jose ( Papers Nautilus ), who is also the cultural counselor at the Australian embassy in Beijing, offers up a portrait of a late-'80s China as enigmatic as it is frenetic, where life is ruled by irony and riddles. Wally Frith is an Australian oncologist whose wife has recently died of cancer; grieving and feeling mocked by his own professional concerns, Wally arranges a stint at the Peking Union Medical College, the most Western of China's medical centers, with hopes of meeting professor Hsu Chien Lung, who years before had performed revolutionary cancer research. Discovering a glittering expatriate circle, socializing with natives and enamored of a beautiful and intelligent local woman, Wally develops a taste for such Chinese puzzles as qigong , ``the breathing power.'' His curiosity thus educated, Wally is slowly prepared to unravel the mysteries woven by his Peking Union colleagues concerning Hsu's whereabouts. If Jose's prose is intermittently cloying (``Their bodies were coated in silver scales of moonshine'') and his narrative somewhat overdetermined, his panoramic grasp of his subject more than compensates. A weighted silence envelops the subject of the Tiananmen Square massacres; although the bloody events are yet to occur as this novel ends, they loom throughout as a final irony, for the Avenue of Eternal Peace leads into the infamous square. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
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