For his sixth novel, Jin (Waiting) focuses on the atrocities committed by the Japanese occupiers in 1937 Nanjing. Jin describes horrible acts in a style bordering on reportage, lending bitter realism to his chronicle of violence and privation. While much will be familiar to readers of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanjing, Jin anchors his tale on two characters: the middle-aged narrator, Anling Gao, and real-life American missionary Minnie Vautrin, dean of Jinling Women's College. Anling assists Minnie, and through her eyes we follow the missionary's heroic decision to open the college to homeless refugees, creating a safety zone that the Japanese can't penetrate. Jin wants to celebrate this "Goddess of Mercy" who sheltered more than 10,000 women and children, endured near daily menace from the Japanese, and literally worked herself to death. Anling too makes a heartbreaking sacrifice, although her torment is secret, since she cannot acknowledge her son's Japanese wife nor the child they bear. Jin's dialogue includes some unfortunate anachronisms ("cut to the chase"; "pain in the ass"), contemporary phrases that wouldn't have been part of a pious Chinese or American woman's vocabulary in the 1930s. Despite these minor lapses, Jin paints a convincing, harrowing portrait of heroism in the face of brutality. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2011 Release date: 10/01/2011 Genre: Fiction
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