Silk Road: A Novel of Eighth-Century China

Jeanne Larsen, Author Henry Holt & Company $19.45 (434p) ISBN 978-0-8050-0958-3
``Some tales must be told, and told again, in an everlasting rehearsal of love and betrayal and regret,'' says the narrator of this enchanting, ingeniously constructed first novel, set in eighth-century China. Larsen tells the same story from different perspectives, weaving a complex, colorful tale from a melange of Taoist and Buddhist myths and folktales, historical documents--and her own rich imagination. When seven-year-old Greenpearl, the daughter of a Chinese general, is kidnapped by Tibetan raiders and sold into slavery, she begins a picaresque adventure involving three related quests that emanate from the celestial as well as the human realm. Greenpearl (who is also called Little Imp, Parrot, Dragonfly, Bordermoon, Skywhistle and Heavenglaive by the people to whom she is sold and by the deities who know her true identity) becomes a singer and entertainer in various brothels and eventually a courtesan, but never loses the memory of her high-born origins and the burning desire to return to her father's city and for a reunion with her mother, who has been borne by enchantment to an undersea kingdom. The brutality and violence of daily life in ancient China is contrasted with the refinements of a highly sophisticated culture, and both are reflected in the hierarchical kingdoms of the gods, whose intervention in human affairs is commonplace. Magical transformations, ghosts and spirits, animals and birds that talk, a mute dancer who utters prophesies while in a trance and other supernatural events are deftly integrated into the plot. Poem-riddles add lyricism and suspense; historical and cultural details illuminate the era with brilliant clarity; observations and asides enrich a multi-textured, intricate tale. A professor of Chinese studies, Larsen has used a dazzling diversity of prose styles to adroitly demonstrate how history is transmuted through the centuries into something not quite true, yet not entirely false. In the process, she treats readers to an illuminating and absorbing story. 75,000 first printing; BOMC featured alternate. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 978-0-449-90523-4
Paperback - 452 pages - 978-1-4401-3888-1
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