At Middle Age

Jung Shen, Author Panda Books $0 (366p) ISBN 978-0-8351-1609-1
Sensitive character sketches, passages of descriptive beauty and real-life suspenseful plots abound in seven stories that possess enduring appeal. In the title piece, a respected physician tries to balance career and family demands. ok?pk After she falls sick, a cleverly-constructed stream-of-consciousness narrative recounts the joys and sorrows of her life. A conflict between materialism and idealism emerges in ``A Rose-coloured Evening Meal,'' when an unhappy son visits his parents on a festive occasion and, instead of rejoicing, cynically contemplates their ``petty bourgeois'' possessions. Throughout the collection, the direction of characters' lives is intertwined with that of China's politics; the specter of the Cultural Revolution haunts the protagonists of ``Ten Years Deducted.'' Overall, each story is not only crafted ingeniously but is suffused with a vitality that makes every word crackle. With her mastery of the form, i hope this is the last name/do the chinese change things around?pk Rong manages both to portray a society that remains mysterious to the West and to express the common humanity of contemporary Chinese individuals. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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