The House of Exile

Nora Waln, Author, C. LeRoy Baldridge, Illustrator
Nora Waln, Author, C. LeRoy Baldridge, Illustrator Soho Press $30 (0p) ISBN 978-0-939149-77-3
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-939149-78-0
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A bestseller when first published in 1933, this tale of an American woman in China has been reprinted here along with five chapters of an unpublished sequel. Waln's simple, graceful prose and sensitive powers of observation stand up well after 60 years, though she analyzes culture in greater depth than she does politics. Born into a family of traders, Waln from childhood dreamed of visiting China, and in 1920 she journeyed there, living as a virtual adopted daughter of the wealthy Lin family in their North China homestead, known as the ``House of Exile.'' She offers detailed descriptions of daily life, the rhythms of the farm and the history of Chinese marriage. After she weds an Englishman, Waln supervises her household and corresponds with her Chinese ``mother'' (their formal yet warm letters are reproduced here). Waln went on to write articles about China and to follow the rise of the Chinese Nationalists; she expresses sympathy for Chinese who fear foreigners as well as for those who fear other Chinese. After some 15 years in the West, Waln returned to China in 1947 to begin a sequel, and the surviving chapters hint at an intimate tale of the country's traumas, such as the story of a lute player found guilty of heresy by a Communist people's court. Illustrations. (Nov.)
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