The Same Moon follows the story of Pearl through her childhood and early adulthood in China to her first several years in the UK where she pursues her dream of higher studies. The first half of the book provides a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day reality of a young person growing up in China, and her perceptions and observations of a country in transition from strict communism to a relatively more open society. The traditional culture is also brought to life through Pearl’s narrative. When given the opportunity to study a Masters and then a PhD in the UK, Pearl jumps at the opportunity, at great personal sacrifice. As she struggles to adapt to a very different culture and to stay in school, she gradually discovers new freedoms she never knew could exist.
China of the ‘70s and ‘80s was as different from the UK as any two countries can be, and this is very clear from Pearl’s experience. There seems to be some parallels between the lives of Pearl and the author, and this provides great authenticity to the story. I often felt like I was reading someone’s diary, as the writing style is personal and sometimes almost unstructured, the way a diary is, one thought leading to another. A few things are needed for this novel to get 4 stars: better editing; smoother transitions between scenes and sections; less jumping between different times and places that are described in the same section (sometimes the author skips a bit too suddenly from one thought to another). I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed ‘Wild Swans’ or is interested in China or the experiences of an immigrant to the UK.
‘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.
Things are about to get darker and stranger in Scarlock as more forces come into play. No longer is it just Mr. Copeland, the thug who runs the town, whom our heroes have to worry about. An army, a demon and a fugitive enter the streets of this sleepy seaside town. But that’s not Nereia’s biggest worry.
Continuing with the same elegant writing of #1 in the series, the sequel maintains the tension and the mystery, adding other elements to it. We continue to learn more about the characters and their secrets. My only major complaint is that #2 just ended without a resolution of sorts, so now I’m waiting for the sequel. Sigh. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys dark, epic, realistic fantasies.
Ryan Campbell champions women’s rights even as he hides a secret: after being humiliated and rejected by his fiancée, Ryan doesn’t like women at this point in his life. Told through a series of diary entries, the reader watches as Ryan learns the power of hate and forgiveness.
Mian Mohsin Zia has tried to capture a number of important themes in this book, including redemption, weaving them together through this unique story. I enjoyed watching the main character’s transformation. The writing style was a bit heavy on ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ scenes and emotions, and that slowed the flow down for me.