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Junying Kirk came to Britain from China in 1988. She has lived almost as long in her adopted country as in the country of her birth. She was born in the 1960s and grew up in the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution. A British Council scholarship led her to study English Language Teaching at Warwick University, followed by further postgraduate degrees at Glasgow and Leeds. She has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher and cultural consultant. Currently working as a professional interpreter and translator, she enjoys writing fiction, reading, blogging and travelling. Her Journey to the West trilogy, 'The Same Moon', 'Trials of Life' and 'Land of Hope' have been published on electronic form here and elsewhere. She lives in Birmingham with her husband.
on Nov. 03, 2011 :
‘Trials of Life’ picks up sometime after ‘The Same Moon’ ends. We find that Pearl has established herself in the UK, and is happily married. Then she reads a news article about the death of Dr Richard Appleton, and her thoughts are flung into turmoil. She begins to reflect on the difficulties she went through to get where she currently is; some of them are pretty intense and include Richard.
This novel is a bit different from ‘The Same Moon’, which provides fascinating insights into China of the ‘70s and ‘80s, through the experiences of Pearl in China and then in the UK as a new immigrant. There is more a focus on the interactions between the various characters. The writing style is still personal and slightly unstructured, the way a diary is, one thought leading to another. I can definitely see an improvement in the editing as well as smoother transitions between scenes and sections, although there is still room for improvement.
The part of the book that I liked best was when Pearl was in the midst of her experiences with Richard. There was an intensity and breathlessness to the narrative that was engaging. Pearl’s uncertainty about the truth of Richard’s story and the fear it generated could have been drawn out more and should have been used to propel the plot forward. Instead, it was left there, an untapped source of potential. Once the point of view shifted to the other characters, I felt the book lost some of that momentum. I would suggest to the writer that she focus on that section with Pearl and see how she can capture that same energy in future stories.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on July 23, 2011 :
“Trials of Life” is the second book in the Journey to the West trilogy by author Junyung Kirk. Like the first book – The Same Moon – this is not the type of book I would normally read, but Ms. Kirk asked me if I would be so kind as to read and provide reviews for her books and I was happy to do so.
“Trials of Life” was a much more difficult book than the first book in the series. While “The Same Moon” is focused on Pearl’s point-of-view exclusively, this book changes point of view frequently and without notice, which made it a bit difficult to follow who was “talking” to the reader. Adding the name of the person speaking at the beginning of the appropriate section would have gone a long way towards clearing that problem up. Also, the bulk of the book has to do with a truly despicable person named Dick Appleton, and having to spend so much time in his head made me want to scrub my skin with pumice and then pour lye into my eyes – he was really awful. Of course, the mere fact that Ms. Kirk was able to provoke such an extreme reaction in me shows that she knows exactly how to create a character that is sure to stick in the mind of the reader. While there are some issues with grammar and proper sentence structure, overall the writing style is excellent and I was duly impressed. The main reason I marked off to only 4 stars was due to the voice confusion.
Overall I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued by both China and Scotland as a result of these books and would love to travel to both countries and have a chance to experience their cultures myself. I can recommend this book for those who enjoy a story about rising above and overcoming adversity – if that is you, definitely check it out.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)