One of my friends said she loves reading fiction books that offer a look at the past without feeling like you are reading a textbook. I agreed, and told her that Janie Chang’s Dragon Springs Road, provided to me by HarperCollins, is definitely one of those types of books.
Not only do you get information about Shanghai’s past, you get a look, and what feels like a true look, at what it would be like for women at that time, particularly zazhong women, Eurasians, or those of mixed blood, who face contempt from both Europeans and Chinese as well as a life of hardship and very little choice, particularly if they were born without the privileges that comes from money.
Dragon Springs Road follows the story of seven-year-old Jialing, who is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai. Jialing, who learns she is a zazhong, becomes a bond servant to the Yang family, who bought the estate. As Jialing grows up, her only allies are Anjuin, the oldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the courtyard for more than 300 years.
The book is a beautiful read – full of details that makes it easy to imagine what is happening on the page. The characters are wonderful, and come alive. I particularly like Fox, although each character is full of detail.
I guessed some parts, was upset about how people treated Jialing and frustrated about the choices the older Zialing made, although I certainly understood them.
I will be interviewing Chang about Dragon Springs Road for an upcoming Book Time post. In the meantime, check out her blog and this YouTube book trailer.
I plan to track down Chang’s first book, Three Souls, which sounds fabulous.
Visit Chang at http://www.janiechang.com
Updated: Read my Q&A with Janie Chang here.