Sunday, July 10

Book Review: The Jade Peony

Title: The Jade Peony

Author: Wayson Choy

Pages: 276

Summary: Chinatown, Vancouver, in the late 1930's and '40s is the setting for this poignant novel told through the vivid, intense reminiscences of three children of an immigrant family. The each experience a very different childhood as they encounter the complexities of birth and death, love and hate, kinship and otherness. Mingling with the realities of Canada and the horror of war are the magic, ghosts, paper uncles and family of secrets Poh-Poh, or Grandmother, the heart and pillar of the family.

Wayson Choy's Chinatown is a community of unforgettable individuals who are "neither this nor that," neither entirely Canadian nor Chinese. But with each other's help, they survive hardship and heartbreak with grit and humour.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed the book on a Chinese immigrant family, living in Vancouver, during the WWII era and how they struggled to identify themselves within their family and their community.

The book told in three different parts, and in three different narratives, as each narrative is told through one of the children's eyes. I found that this worked out very well, as the narratives seemed to flow together - even though each child's perspective focused on something completely different - mainly an event or group of events that shaped them, the story still came together as one story.

Each deals with friendship and loss as one of the main themes, but also shows how the family struggled in their community. As children, the main focus isn't how the family struggled to survive, but you are able to get a good feel for how it must have been like, due to the relationships they built, philosophy of family and friends and the events and "games" the children are involved in.

The writing was well done, it was very easy for me to be pulled into to the book and for the most part, the three narratives seemed to reflected the different voices and not one person.
One issue I had was that, although I enjoyed the three separate narratives, I would have liked a third person, narrative to better connect the three different sections , just to strengthen the theme of life in Chinatown in Vancouver. I think a lot was missed because, the individual sections talked about certain events, and hardships, but it they mainly focused on a certain relationship that shaped that characters life - these were well done, but I wanted more on the hardships of the community as a whole.

I'd definitely read more books by the author or with a similar plot, as I did enjoy this book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the book was well written, and the relationships the children build in their own individual narratives were well done and explored. Evenr eaders who don't enjoy multiple narratives would likely enjoy the book.

What to read next: Under This Unbroken Sky

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100 + Challenge, Book Blogger Bucket List, Canadian Reading Challenge V


  1. I am glad you enjoyed this one! I truthfully had never heard of it before, but your fantastic review makes me want to look out for it. Thanks for sharing your insight with us!

  2. Zibilee - Thanks. Hopefully you get a chance to read it soon, it's was a pretty good book.