Review Blog

Mar 31 2010

Little paradise by Gabrielle Wang

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Penguin, 2010. ISBN 9780143011477.
Recommended for girls aged 13-16. Inspired by the story of the author's mother, Little Paradise is set in Melbourne near the end of World War 2, and then Shanghai in the post-war years during the defeat of the Kuomintang forces. The main character, Mirabel, comes from a traditional Chinese business family and has an oracle bone made for her that predicts a mystifying future. The oracle provides reassurance and guidance as she becomes involved in many difficult situations. Clearly talented, she loves drawing and dress designing, and finds a job in a map drawing office, important war work. Her father is a Kuomintang supporter, and Mirabel falls in love with a young officer, Jin Jing, who is liaising with him. When Jin Jing returns to China, Mirabel is pregnant, and her father furiously confines her, and the baby when he is born, to the house. Mirabel eventually decides to travel to Shanghai to find her lover; there she experiences life in the international sectors, until she finds and marries Jin Jing who has been working in a remote village. However, life in China becomes very difficult and they are described attempting to escape before the city falls to the Communists. The novel covers a lot of issues, perhaps too many, several being racism directed towards the Chinese even in China, the strength and weaknesses of traditions, and the contribution that a young woman can make towards society.  It does capture the poverty and richness of life in China particularly well, and the dislocation created by war. The feelings of a young girl falling in love are perhaps over-written in places, and Mirabel does seem to have a lot of good luck. However, this is an enjoyable and informative novel.
Jenny Hamilton

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