4 out of 4 stars
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Inspiring and thoughtful, a very good read!
Although I prefer the crime genre, I also like to curl up from time to time with a good romance, usually an historical one. This explains my selection of The Sound of Spring by G.X. Chen, which was full of anticipation in no way diminished by the plot's more recent setting. The result is that I love it, to the point I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
In 1976, twenty-two-year old Du Chun Ming lives in Shanghai and is convinced she has found true love. Her choice of a boyfriend has fallen on Fang Si Jun, a co-worker at the factory where Chun Ming has started working four years before.
Si Jun is convinced he has found the perfect girl for him and asks her to swear an oath that they'll love each other forever, and that they'll never separate. Totally smitten with him, Chun Ming swears. What neither one knows is that Chun Ming's father and uncle are under the suspicious gaze of the Cultural Revolution, the accusation of being rightists hence enemies of the state hanging over their heads and derailing their careers and their lives. Will their love survive the political upheavals?
What I most appreciate about this novel is that the romance thread is just an excuse to expose the atrocities of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The regime of terror and denunciation has the country split in half, with people having to take sides in order to survive. This is something that a naive twenty-two-year old girl can't understand at first, until the worsening of her father's situation makes her realize the reality of her world. The author points out that loyalty, self-respect and commitment to one's true beliefs are just as important as love, and I like how she spells it out with an almost flawless style and clear language.
The personal history of Chief Du and Professor Du, Chun Min's father and uncle respectively, have been really insightful in understanding how China slid into the disarray of the Cultural Revolution. Yet, what has touched me more deeply are the stories of the younger generation, of Chun Ming's cousin Jian Hua and his girlfriend Lin Nan and of Xiao Zhu, Chief Du's helper and acolyte. Their personal tragedies reinforce Mrs. Chen's beliefs and bring readers to understand the importance of knowledge and of learning.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for more than just a romance novel!
The Sound of Spring
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