Saturday, February 16, 2013

10. The Distant Land of My Father: A Novel of Shanghai

By:  Bo Caldwell
Rated: 5 Stars

I rated this book 5 stars for the fact that it made me think so much about the characters and what motivated them.  This would be an excellent book for a group as there is a lot to talk about and it would be interesting to what others thought about the book.

My reaction is that Anna's father Joe is one of the most conflicted, yet charasmatic characters I have read about in a . . . .  well I can't remember when a character made me like him, deeply dislike him and at times felt very sorry for him.   In fact in spite of flashes of intelligence I though he was really rather dumb, self absorbed and certainly clueless and insensitive about how his actions effected the people who loved him.  Still, I had to like him. sigh

Where this book really shone for me was in time and place.  Bo Caldwell did a marvelous job of putting the reader in Shanghi during WW2 and the years leading up to it.  I think she accurately  described the mind set of the international community during those days.

This was not an easy read for me in that my emotions were engaged on  almost every page.  Even when the action was slow I could feel the tension and undercurrents swirling around the characters and the feeling of waiting for the shoe to drop.  I highly recommend this book.

Book Description

 September 1, 2001
For Anna, the narrator of Bo Caldwell's richly lyrical and vivid first novel, growing up in the magical world of Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s creates a special bond between her and her father. He is the son of missionaries, a smuggler, and a millionaire who leads a charmed but secretive life. When the family flees to Los Angeles in the face of the Japanese occupation, he chooses to remain, believing his connections and luck will keep him safe. He's wrong. He survives, only to again choose Shanghai over his family during the Second World War. Anna and her father reconnect late in his life, when she finally has a family of her own, but it is only when she discovers his extensive journals that she is able to fully understand him and the reasons for his absences. With the intensity and appeal of When We Were Orphans, also set in Shanghai at the same time, The Distant Land of My Father tells a moving and unforgettable story about a most unusual father-daughter relationship.