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Published: 05 January 2012
Genre: General & literary fiction
December 1937. The Japanese have taken Nanking. A group of terrified schoolgirls hides in the compound of an American church. Among them is Shujuan, through whose thirteen-year-old eyes we witness the shocking events that follow. Run by Father Engelmann, an American priest who has been in China for many years, the church is supposedly neutral ground in the war between China and Japan. But it becomes clear the Japanese are not obeying international rules of engagement. As they pour through the streets of Nanking, raping and pillaging the civilian population, the girls are in increasing danger. And their safety is further compromised when prostitutes from the nearby brothel climb over the wall into the compound seeking refuge. Short, powerful, vivid, this beautiful novel transports the reader to 1930s China. Full of wonderful characters, from the austere priest to the irreverent prostitutes, it is a story about how war upsets all prejudices and how love can flourish amidst death.
I have long been a fan of Geling Yan's fiction for its power to disturb us out of our ordinary worlds. She is a writer of importance. In spare and unsentimental prose, she shows us the human condition in extreme times. The Flowers of War is yet another accomplished and riveting tale that touches us at the center of our being.
Yan masterfully depicts bubbling tensions...testament to the bravery of women in the most horrifying of circumstances...(beautifully translated by Nicky Harman)
Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, Independent
The novel is rewarding for its spare prose and subtle treatment of the conflicts, quarrels, racial ambiguities and acts of transcendent heroism woven into the story... There are doomed love stories, amid the tragedies, but they are drawn from a deeper well and speak to the persistence of humanity in the grimmest of circumstances
Isabel Hilton, Guardian
Powerful and poignant
Deft exploration of the wondrous and sad inscrutability of the human heart.
New York Times
Yan is a keen observer of the cruel and the magical, and has a fine sense of the permeable line between high hilarity and Kafkan nightmare.
Lancashire Evening Post
Masterful novel… Spare, beautifully understated prose…
Pam Norfolk, UK Regional Press Syndication
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Geling Yan is an award-winning Chinese novelist and screenwriter. Born in Shanghai in 1959, Geling Yan served with the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, starting aged 12 as a dancer ...