Celeste Ng, follows up her last inter-cultural masterpiece, ‘Everything I Never Told You’ with a book that traces the class and cultural differences in US. The story is so compelling that you turn pages instantly, and the writing so good, that you regret only so much is left. The characters, particularly the teenagers – Lexi, Chip, Moody, Izzy, and Pearl are drawn really sharply, and distinctively. The only drawback is the excessive back stories of the adults – Mrs. Richardson and Mia – that slow down the pace of the book. An interesting lesson there – sometimes the writers feel compelled to tell us the back stories of some of the main characters , to tell us how they came to be what they are, and sometimes the readers only want to get on with the story and don’t really care. Overall, a brilliant book.
A playboy Portuguese doctor finds his father suffers from Syphilis and want to cure him. It is the nineteenth century and Syphilis doesn’t have a cure in the west. He goes all the way to China to find a cure. The book is essentially about his journey within China. There is the layer of Boxer revolution in China that adds complexity to the plot and makes it a bit more interesting. The book didn’t work for me. Basu seemed overeager to describe the Portuguese and Chinese cultures to the reader – the pestas in Portugal, the early morning rice in China and the like and lost the plot somewhere in the middle. Two other major flaws (i) the characters are not consistent, they seem to want one thing today and another tomorrow. They are also difficult to believe – at least some of their actions are. People vanish without reason and (ii) there is no subtlety in writing. Basu doesn’t give the readers any credit for intelligence – and as a result says too many obvious things – making the reading a drag. So it is not the story but the telling that doesn’t work