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The Communist's Daughter

Dennis Bock, Author
Dennis Bock, Author . Knopf $24 (287p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4462-7
Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Hardcover - 315 pages - 978-0-00-200528-9
Paperback - 287 pages - 978-1-4000-9609-1
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In this artful blend of fact and fiction, Bock (The Ash Garden ) spins a stirring what-if story from the legendary—in Canada and China, at least—life of battlefield surgeon Norman Bethune. The Canadian-born doctor's disdain for "the doomed experiment of capitalism" took him to Spain in 1936 to fight against the Fascists, and to China in 1938 to provide medical succor for Mao Tse-tung's ragtag army struggling against the Japanese. His life story, factually intact but fancifully imagined, is recounted through letters to a daughter Bethune never knew (and, historically, never had) written from China but never dispatched. Bock's vivid first-person narrative exquisitely captures the malice of war: Bethune's bloody WWI experiences, the horror of bombing raids during the Spanish Civil War and the numbing deprivation of Chinese peasants trapped between Mao's revolutionary army, the Japanese invaders and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists. But the novel's most affecting moments stem from Bock's portrayal of the troubled soul of a war-weary idealist whose dreams of a better world were battered by ugly reality. The sound historical foundation will resonate with Canadian readers; U.S. readers will appreciate the story as powerful and affecting fiction. (Feb.)

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