Bronze Mirror

Jeanne Larsen, Author Henry Holt & Company $19.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-8050-1110-4
Having established her reputation, in Silk Road , as a writer who provocatively fuses the myths and history of medieval China, Larsen again spins an imaginative story that takes place both in the heavenly spheres and in the real world. The narrative is framed as a story-telling competition, in which three intersecting tales are related in alternating segments by gods who live in ``the time before time begins.'' The Silkweb Empress recounts her tale by painting a picture on silk; the Emperor's chief minister, Tsang-jieh, uses writing, which he has just invented; and a goddess-in-waiting, Lady Quillingwheel, combines both methods. They chronicle the adventures of Pomegranate, a 12th-century shopkeeper's daughter serving as a lady's maid in a rich family fallen upon hard times, a device that allows Larsen to portray the complexities of Chinese society. She also endows the gods with the same passions and rivalries, fallibilities and foibles as the humans whose lives they manipulate. Though clever, whimsically humorous and insightful, the narrative lacks full-bodied vigor and dramatic intensity. Larsen's authorial intrusions, while always interesting, are sometimes too discursive and obtrusive, diluting the tension and slowing the pace. On the other hand, her ability to synthesize the magical and historical continues to charm. BOMC featured alternate. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1991
Release date: 07/01/1991
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-449-90671-2
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-4401-3528-6
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