The Interior

Lisa See, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-019261-7
As in her debut novel, Flower Net, the strength of See's work here is in her detailed and intimate knowledge of contemporary China, its mores, its peculiar mixture of the traditional and the contemporary, and its often bedeviled relationships with the U.S. Here again are American lawyer David Stark and his Chinese lover, police investigator Liu Hulan; they become involved in the issue of working conditions among women in an American-owned toy factory in rural China--a highly promising and original notion. Stark's law firm wants him to supervise the buyout of the American entrepreneur who launched the toy company, while Liu is called in by the mother of a factory worker who seems to have committed suicide. What actually happened to her, and why? It seems inevitable that the lovers will be pulled in different directions by their opposing interests, and soon Liu has introduced herself into the factory as a worker, while Stark's deal, important to his career, begins to unravel. So far, so good; but as the action becomes increasingly violent, with another girl's sudden death at the factory, gunplay, a deathly sick Liu struggling to survive, and a climactic fire that takes hundreds of lives (a calamity treated almost as an afterthought), it becomes apparent that See has plotting problems. Many story threads seem to disappear, the action scenes are stagy and unconvincing, and the David-Liu relationship never seems to generate much real warmth. A pity, because until the melodrama takes over, much here is original and fresh, an absorbing look at an unfamiliar world. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. 6-city author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-74983-3
Paperback - 391 pages - 978-0-8129-7869-8
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 286 pages - 978-1-58836-668-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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