Years of Red Dust

Qiu Xiaolong, St. Martin's, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-62809-3
Qiu's (Death of a Red Heroine) latest is a collection of linked stories from the vantage point of the inhabitants of Red Dust Lane in Shanghai depicting China through several tumultuous decades, from 1949 to 2005. Most begin with excerpts from the year-end issue of the Red Dust Lane Blackboard Newsletter, a summary of the year's political changes, which read like a mini history lesson. In "Return of POW 1," the Red Dust Lane residents are told in 1953 that Bai Jie, a nurse in the Chinese People's Volunteers during the Korean War, has been killed. She is mourned and honored until 1954 when, to the Red Dust residents' surprise, she returns after being released from a POW camp. Instead of a hero's welcome, she is greeted with suspicion. "Cricket Fighting," set in 1969, is centered on the neighborhood's eponymous popular sport. The narrator is a young child whose status is briefly elevated after receiving the gift of Big General, a superstar cricket. Qiu's writing is transportive, and readers will feel as though they've traveled through China's history. He captures the mood of this fascinating country through its most ordinary citizens. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/23/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
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