Tuesday, April 7, 2015
"The Red Thread" by Nicholas Jose
I found this book for $1 at the Red Cross Shop, and I'm reading it as part of the Aussie Author Challenge. While the author Nicholas Jose is Australian, the book "The Red Thread" is set in Shanghai, China. As I was reading it I got the impression that the author had either spent a reasonable amount of time living there or studying Chinese history/art/literature as the details in the book just seemed so authentic and as if they were written by someone who was passionate about Chinese art and culture - to me anyway, not that I have visited mainland China myself yet. Now that I've finished reading the book I have just looked up the author's biography and discovered that he did indeed live in China during the 1980s.
The book is a love story, and I don't usually read a lot of books that fall into the 'romance' genre. Basically it's about an ill-fated but besotted young Chinese couple from the 1700s (Shen and Yun) who form a turbulent friendship with another woman, Han. Their story is fairly tragic, but it appears somehow they are linked or re-born in contemporary times, destined to re-live their ill-fated romance and friendship, while trying desperately to avoid coming to the same sad end. The re-born characters are Shen (a young Chinese art historian/valuer for an auction house), Ruth (an Australian artist visiting Shanghai) and Han, a nightclub entertainer. The Shen from the 1700s had recorded his life story in a book of 6 chapters, of which the contemporary Shen comes across the first 4 chapters, and quickly comes to the conclusion that he is re-living the story in that book. As things start going badly for the modern day Shen & Ruth, he desperately tries to track down the final missing chapters to try to find a happy ending.
While the romance in the book seemed pretty far-fetched and unrealistic to me, I really enjoyed the setting of the novel, the descriptive writing style and the little cultural details about China and Chinese art, which I know very little about. I liked the descriptions of many of the art pieces, they seemed to bring the objects to life in my mind, for example the description of this bowl:
"The bowl had such a presence and authority that it simply was, and at the same time it seemed to centre the whole open-plan office of Shanghai Art Auctions International....A spectacular piece, its oxblood glaze, like liquid garnet, absorbing the strange light of this world, three centuries remote from the time when it was made, as it reflected the faces of the two men who peered into it....it felt glossy, almost viscous."
Started reading: 8th April 2015
Finished: 15th April 2015
My score: 6.5/10
Aussie Author Challenge stats: Male Author, New to me, genre: romance/love story