What is the first thing that comes into your mind if I say ‘China’?
I want to believe you didn’t just think ‘restaurant’ and I’ll go for ‘tradition’ and ‘language’. At least that’s what I think and for some strange reason I never found it particularly appealing to read a book written by a Chinese author. Assuming a translator was employed, the cultural difference has always appeared too challenging.
The first time I read the first paragraph of ‘The Bonesetter Daughter’, brought to the attention by my Writing Mentor Nicola Sellars, that’s exactly what I felt about it:
Too Challenging; Not Worth It.
Like that, included capital letters, in my mind.
Then, a year later, I read it again. As a second read it was easier to get past the prejudices and read the words just as they were, understand what lay beneath them.
A week later, I bought the book.
It’s the story of Liu Ling, of how she was born in a family of ink masters, who used dragon bones to make the best ink of China. It’s the story of her Precious Auntie, daughter of the great bonesetter.
Most of all, it’s the story of a family destroyed and put back together, through the power that names can have in the old traditions, where ancestors watch over the progeny, with the power that a name can give.
It’s also the story of Ruth, LuLing’s daughter, born in the USA and grown in-between worlds, watching the States through the cracks of a discipline her mother had taken with her straight from Beijing. In the end, though, the Western culture had won the game and Ruth ended up barely able to understand Chinese characters, when her mother writes to her.
‘These are the things I mustn’t forget…’ writes Lu Ling. These are the things she knows.
As LuLing seems to fall everyday deeper into dementia, Ruth knows that she has to save as much as she can of that distant mother she could never really understand.
Just like Ryan’s Book Review has done recently, I will as well keep myself from giving you a link to Amazon, inviting you to pass by at your favourite bookshop and get a copy of this great book.
If you want to know more, you can have a look at the Goodreads page.