Pei, a bright and curious girl in a very poor rural Chinese family, is sold at about seven by her father to a silk factory when sheer desperation strikes and one more daughter is born in a time of famine. Most of Pei's minimal salary will come back to help her family. She misses them terribly, but forms strong friendships in the girls' house and learns pride in her work. Eventually, the girls go on strike for shorter hours, and win some concessions from the owner. This first novel pulled me completely into their world, its suffering and its compensations. The characters are, for the most part, completely believable, well rounded people. The book carries us as far as the beginning of the rule of Chaing Kai Chek, and the push southward of the Japanese army. The end of the book implies this might be the beginning of a series. I will certainly look for more books by Tsukiyama.
As with "A Hundred Flowers", this book captured me from the start. The characters, surrounded by the culture and life as a silk worker, combined to make a journey into China's past come to life. Thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by Tsukiyama.
Read April 2011
This is a very readable book, with dynamic and believable characters. I enjoyed the friendships that were created during times of difficulty. Tsukiyama does an excellent job of drawing you into their world, and making you sympathetic to their struggles. I also admired the resiliency and strength she displayed in the characters.
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