Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Book Review 9: Spring Moon

Book Title: Spring Moon
Author: Bettebao Lord
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Angst
Number of Pages:  571
Personal Rating: 6/10 
Reading Difficulty: Medium (3/5)

Book Summary:

In a world gone forever, at a time of mystery and cruelty, in an ancient land of breathtaking beauty and exotic surprise.... Here, you will discover Spring Moon, pampered child of a noble house, privileged daughter of destiny, a courageous woman who triumphs over her world's ultimate tragedy...

Behind the garden walls of the House of Chang, Spring Moon is born into luxury and privilege. But the tempests of change sweep her into a new world-- one of hardship, turmoil and heartbreak, one that threatens to destroy her husband, her family, and her darkest secret love. Through a tumultuous lifetime, Spring Moon must cling to her honor, to the memory of a time gone by-- and to a destiny foretold at her birth, that has yet to be fulfilled.

Personal Insights:

Most books involving Chinese history that I have read are so depressing-- like Amy Tan's books, Jung Chang's "Wild Swans," and especially the book called "Rape of Nanking." These books contain gory details from Chinese history with themes like persecution, oppression,lack of freedom, injustice, etc.... I hope you get my drift. This book is no exception; it followed the pattern quite well so if you're looking for a 'feel-good' book, this is definitely not for you. 

I know that the book summary is quite vague, and this is the reason why I stalled reading this book because it sounded so cheesy, especially the names of the characters! I mean, hello~? Spring Moon? Seriously?It sounded like something out of a cheap romance novel where the characters have these aliases and such. But then, I realized that the author probably used the English translation of the elegant Chinese names so my repulsion to the book's summary somehow lessened and I eventually started reading it. 

The opening story of the book is very captivating. It started out with Spring Moon's childhood in her clan's home. Spring Moon is the focus of this story. The opening story gave a glimpse of how well off Spring Moon's family is considering that they are nobles, similar to the status of feudal lords. In the start, Spring Moon is depicted as a very strong- willed and outspoken little girl. Her servant (see how rich she is!) was about to get married off to a family friend and seeing how distraught the servant is, she attempted to convince her family to stop the arranged marriage. Obviously, her pleas were not heard by her stoic and traditional family. In the end of the first chapter, it was shown that they should have listened to Spring Moon because the servant committed suicide instead of doing her duty to the clan.The clan of Chang was shamed.

As I have mentioned, the opening story of the book is very interesting and captivating. It was enough to propel me to read further, but as the story progressed, I started becoming bored-- until the end. After the first chapter, Spring Moon is shown interacting with the various members of the clan then she gets married, becomes widowed, gives birth, abused by her mother-in-law,  commits an incestuous act, gives birth again, etc. After these events, the story loses its focus on Spring Moon and starts to look into Spring Moon's daughter, Lustrous Jade's revolutionary acts to help change the political climate in China.

Generally, I like the way it was written because it is so flowery and poetic that it oozes a sense of nobility. Most of the dialogue contains 'quotable quotes' because they are full of moral lessons that is characteristic of a Chinese story. The character development is also very great as well as their interaction with one another. You can clearly see the changes in the character,;they are not static at all unlike some stories where the character's personality remains the same until the end! For instance, Spring Moon is depicted as a mischievous child then she turns into a prim lady and eventually becomes  a strict and traditional Chinese mother. It is evident that the book remained true to its promise of showing the 5 generations of the Chang clan's rise and fall.

Another positive thing that I noticed in the book is that it provides really interesting short stories contained in a single narrative. For example, the story is all about Spring Moon, but it also explores the short history of some characters like the deaf and mute servant that she took in-- this girl had a very morbid story to tell. She saw her mother and father decapitated in front of her and how she tried muffling the screams of her baby brother with mud, which led to his death through suffocation... Behind the beauty of the story's written words lies unimaginable stories of terror like this one.

In the negative side however, I noticed that there's something queer about this story. The book is long with its 571 pages and that's understandable because it tells the story of a Chinese family and its five generations. It provides a complete profile of the family, but the ending is a little vague, much like its summary. My reaction when I finished reading it was literally, "Huh?Yun na yun?So, ano nga nangyari?" Even after I tried rereading the last parts of the book, I still did not get it so I consulted with my cousin who lent me the book. She said that the ending is really supposed to be like that, and the focus is the death of nobility in China. 

All in all, I liked this book, but compared to other Chinese stories that spans across different generations, I will have to say that I favor the other ones especially Jung Chang's "Wild Swans," which is one of the most unforgettable books I have ever read. This is good, but not THAT good. 

Favorite Excerpts:

The higher type of man seeks all that he desires in himself; the inferior man seeks all that he desires from others.-- Sterling Talent

What harm is there in dreaming, if it eases pain? What good is reality, if it blots out hope? Can a man's mind be washed without bleaching his soul? -- Bold Talent

The young see what they wish to see... The old see what they do not wish.-- The Matriarch

I did not know that heroes must be unhappy!-- Lustrous Jade

My daughter, you cannot have without giving. That would be unworthy. You are a child. Someday you will be a person of character.-- Spring Moon

Life is a paradox the gods have fashioned for mortals to play at being gods.-- The Matriarch

Mother, can you not understand that their ignorance keeps them from from a more productive and godly life? You say I should stop. But if you saw a person drink from a poisoned cup, would you not try to stop him? Especially if that person were as helpless as one who cannot hear or speak or see?-- Lustrous Jade

One dream come true in a lifetime is already a bounty from the gods. Dream on, and you will be disappointed.-- Spring Moon

One-- The Cosmos. Divided becomes One, Two-- Yin, Yang. Opposites that form the Whole. One, two, three, four, five Seasons: Spring, Summer, Mid- year, Autumn, Winter. One, two, three, four, five Directions: East, South, Center, West, North. One, two, three, four, five Elements: Earth, that gives birth to Wood, which is cut by Metal, that melts with Fire, which is extinguished by Water, that is damned by Earth.... -- Bold Talent

If mortals wait until the gods remake the world to their liking to be happy, they are already in hell.-- August Winds

There is a season for sun, another for shadow. A season to sing, another to be silent. And, in all seasons, parting and reunion. In yielding, we are like the water, by nature placid, conforming to the hollow of the smallest hand; in time, shaping even the mountain to its will. Thus we keep duty and honor. We cherish clan and civilization. We are Chinese.-- Spring Moon

Mortals should be content, lest they arouse the jealousy of the gods.-- Spring Moon

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