Bone Mountain – Eliot Pattison
When disgraced former inspector, Shan Tao Yun joins a group of reverent Tibetans returning a sacred artefact to its home, it seems he has at last found the peace he has struggled for since leaving prison. What starts as a spiritual pilgrimage, however, quickly turns into a desperate flight through the Tibetan wilderness as the outlawed monk who guides them is murdered and Sham discovers that the artefact has recently been stolen from the Chinese army.
But why is the army so desperate to find the artefact entrusted to Shan? Why is an aged medicine lama being stalked by government agents? Why has an American woman, a geologist for an oil company, abandoned the project and fled into the mountains? Shan discovers not answers, but only new mysteries as he is drawn to such unexpected places as the raucous headquarters base of the Western oil venture and a monastery that seems more attuned to the teachings of the party than those of Buddha. And the further he travels into the mountains, the more Shan realises that what is at stake is not only justice but the spiritual survival of those who have joined his strange quest. At the heart of Pattison’s powerful tale is a story of a brave, oppressed people who have learned to endure by drawing strength from their land and their rich spiritual traditions.
The Eye of Jade – Diane Wei Liang
“Having her own detective agency would give her the independence she had always longed for. It would also give her the chance to show those people who shunned her that she could be successful. People were getting rich. They owned property, money, business, and cars. With new freedom and opportunities came new crimes. There would be much that
she could do.”
Present day, Beijing. Mei Wang is a modern, independent woman. She has her own apartment. She owns a car. She has her own business with that most modern of commodities – a male secretary. Her short career with China’s prestigious Ministry for Public Security has given her intimate insight into the complicated and arbitrary world of Beijing’s law enforcement. But it is her intuition, curiosity, and her uncanny knack for listening to things said – and unsaid – that make Mei Beijing’s first successful female private investigator.
Mei is no stranger to the dark side of China. She was six years old when she last saw her father behind the wire fence of one of Mao’s remote labor camps. Perhaps as a result, Mei eschews the power plays and cultural mores – “guanxi” – her sister and mother live by…for better and for worse.
Mei’s family friend “Uncle” Chen hires her to find a Han dynasty jade of great value: he believes the piece was looted from the Luoyang Museum during the Cultural Revolution – when the Red Guards swarmed the streets, destroying so many traces of the past – and that it’s currently for sale on the black market. The hunt for the eye of jade leads Mei through banquet halls and back alleys, seedy gambling dens and cheap noodle bars near the Forbidden City. Given the jade’s provenance and its journey, Mei knows to treat the investigation as a most delicate matter; she cannot know, however, that this case will force her to delve not only into China’s brutal history but also into her family’s dark secrets and into her own tragic separation from the man she loved in equal parts.
The Three Daughters of Madame Liang – Pearl S. Buck
After her husband takes a concubine, Madame Liang sets out on her own, starting an upscale restaurant and sending her daughters to America to be educated. At the restaurant, the leaders of the People’s Republic wine and dine and Madame Liang must keep a low profile for her daughters’ sake.
Soon her two eldest daughters are called back to serve the People’s Republic. Her oldest daughter, Grace, now a doctor, finds meaning through her work. Things are not as easy for her daughter Mercy, a musician who is not in demand in the People’s Republic, nor for her new husband who she has brought back to China with her.
Watching her two daughters grow apart and knowing that her youngest daughter will never return, Madame Liang must also face the challenges The Cultural Revolution, and how to keep herself and the restaurant, alive.
Song of the Silk Road – Mingmei Yip
As a girl growing up in Hong Kong, Lily Lin was captivated by photographs of the desert–its long, lonely vistas and shifting sand dunes. Now living in New York, Lily is struggling to finish her graduate degree when she receives an astonishing offer. An aunt she never knew existed will pay Lily a huge sum to travel across China’s desolate Taklamakan Desert – and carry out a series of tasks along the way.
Intrigued, Lily accepts. Her assignments range from the dangerous to the bizarre. Lily must seduce a monk. She must scrape a piece of clay from the famous Terracotta Warriors, and climb the Mountains of Heaven to gather a rare herb. At Xian, her first stop, Lily meets Alex, a young American with whom she forms a powerful connection. And soon, she faces revelations that will redefine her past, her destiny, and the shocking truth behind her aunt’s motivations. . .
Inheritance – Lan Samantha Chang
In 1931, abandoned after their mother’s suicide, the young Junan and her sister, Yinan, make a pact never to leave each other. The two girls are inseparable—until Junan enters into an arranged marriage and finds herself falling in love with her soldier husband. When the Japanese invade China, Junan and her husband are separated. Unable to follow him to the wartime capital, Junan makes the fateful decision to send her sister after him.
Village of Stone – Xiaolu Guo, translated by Cindy Carter
Coral and her frisbee-obsessed boyfriend, Red, live in a cramped tower block in the megalopolis that is modern-day Beijing. The epitome of disaffected youth, their already fragile existence is shattered by the arrival of a mysterious fishy package. As the smells of the sea wash over her, Coral is transported back to a traumatic childhood dominated by solitude, fear and shame. Coral was raised by silent grandparents among the stern and superstitious fishermen of the remote village of Stone. Shunned from birth as a bringer of ill fortune, and exposed to the malevolent forces of a closed-off society, she immersed herself in the minutiae of the landscape around her. At fifteen, she escaped to the big city and shut the door on the darkness of her past.
As the narrative darts between the forbidding sprawl of Beijing and the rhythms of a tiny coastal village, our narrator struggles to navigate a path through painful and hidden memories of a time spent helpless, cold and alone. But when a sick old man appears on Coral’s doorstep, the past and present shockingly converge, and she is forced to confront the secrets of her history in order to realise her dreams for the future.
Sweet Mandarin – Helen Tse
Spanning almost a hundred years, this rich and evocative true story recounts the lives of three generations of remarkable Chinese women. Their extraordinary journey takes us from the brutal poverty of village life in mainland China to newly prosperous 1930s Hong Kong and finally to the West. Their lives were as dramatic as the times they lived through.
A love of food and a talent cooking pulled each generation through the most devastating of upheavals. Helen Tse’s grandmother, Lily Kowk, was forced to work as an amah after the violent murder of her father. She honed her famous chicken curry recipe as she crossed the ocean from Hong Kong in the 1950s, and she eventually opened her own restaurant where her daughter, Mabel, worked from the tender age of seven. But gambling and the Triads were pervasive in the Chinese immigrant community, and they tragically lost the restaurant. It was up to Helen and her sisters, the third generation of these exceptional women, to re-establish their grandmother’s dream.