cover image Little Reunions

Little Reunions

Eileen Chang, trans. from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz. New York Review Books, $16.95 trade paper (354p) ISBN 978-1-68137-127-6

Originally completed in 1976 and appearing in English for the first time, this intricate novel follows a young Chinese woman, known as Julie, who comes of age during World War II. The book opens before the Japanese invasion of British Hong Kong, where Julie attends private boarding school. These scenes are among the book’s most striking, as the students provide a fascinating cross-section of different lifestyles as informed by various backgrounds, from the rural provinces of the mainland to cosmopolitan aristocracy. During this time, Julie’s divorced mother, Rachel, first passes through, on her way, as she always is, to some other place with some other man. Once the Japanese attack, Julie leaves school and settles in Shanghai with her father’s sister, Judy, known as “Third Aunt.” Here, Julie discovers both writing and love, beginning a long affair with a renowned author and finding her voice in her stories. The translation is elegant, though the expansive cast—there’s an eight-page character index at the back of the book—may require some sorting out on the reader’s part (at one point Judy describes a family relation to Julie as “Brother Hsu’s mother was Third Concubine’s servant girl”). Nevertheless, the novel provides an intimate glimpse into an alluring world, rife with vivid detail and characters. (Jan.)