cover image The Earth Sings

The Earth Sings

YA Ding. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $21.95 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-15-176140-1

A loyal Communist is sent to a small village to serve as prefect and helps to release the community from its primitive poverty. Then the Cultural Revolution breaks out and the prefect is branded a ``capitalist,'' leading to much suffering for him and his family. Stories of this nature abound in the ``scar literature'' of China. If Ya Ding's novel has something new to add, it is that the story is told from the point of view of the nine-year-old son of the prefect. But the narrative voice most often sounds like that of an adult remembering childhood through a misty filter of romanticism and forced sophistication. In another plot twist, the village is dominated by a large church built by the French, and several of the villagers remain secret Christians. Unlike the Japanese novelist Endo Shusaku, however, Ya Ding seems to interpolate this foreign religion more from a sense of exoticism than conviction. Although the book was a bestseller in France, the reader here can find better stories dealing with this period of Chinese history. (Apr.)