China Dawn

Robert L. Duncan, Author Delacorte Press $18.95 (590p) ISBN 978-0-385-29620-5
Duncan is a skillful, commercial novelist whose strength (The Queen's Messenger, In the Enemy Camp) is his expert knowledge of Far Eastern history and politics. It is therefore a bit disconcerting to find his new novel beginning much in the style of Krantz, on the eve of a big fashion opening in Paris. The couturier, however, is a beautiful and indomitable Japanese woman, Suki, and soon we are back on firmer ground as Duncan tells of her rise from poverty, her relationship in the war-ravaged Shanghai of the 1930s with a dashing young American diplomat, Sam Cummings, and an equally dashing Japanese army officer, Colonel Ito. The interlinked personal dramas of the trio are enacted against a colorful backdrop of Chinese warlords, Japanese armies and canny American businessmen, with the wartime suffering of the Chinese deployed to provoke occasional moments of compassion. The book moves on, inevitably, to World War II, to the enforced estrangement of Cummings and Ito and the inevitable death of the latter. Meanwhile Suki's fashion career is on the rise, and back at the dress show in Paris . . . . There are some surprises in the windup, but the notion of hanging a novel's climax on the outcome of a struggle for power in the fashion business, after 50 years of war, revolution, bloodshed, thwarted honor and hairsbreadth escapes, seems a touch bizarre. Still, Duncan writes smoothly and with expert pacing and occasionally, as in his portrait of the elderly American consul in Shanghai, achieves something touching. (March)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1988
Release date: 02/01/1988
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-440-20317-9
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