Ah, I just love historical fiction. Digging into a culture and time so far from my own is intoxicating. Cheng’s novel is no different.
Her simple map through such a tumultuous time in China was a treat to read. Her frank approach to the prejudice and disgust Eurasian people experienced was well done and explorative. I felt deeply for the ‘zazhong’ characters, most notably the protagonist, whenever they were given lackluster and sometimes abusive treatment simply because they weren’t born fully Asian or fully European.
Cheng’s keen build of the character Fox was beautiful. It made me think wistfully of bounding through fields and rolling hills, forests and prairies, unfettered by human shackles. The concept and mythology of the Fox spirit was new to me, and I loved learning about it through this novel.
Jialing was a firm protagonist who wasn’t given a easy go. First abandoned by her mother, then turned into a bond servant, and then awakened to the horrors of class and race distinction while dealing with the pain of puberty, Jialing traverses her difficult story with poise.
Overall, this was a lovely read that I’m glad I found in a random bookshop.