The classic story of a woman in post-World War II China. "[A] complex and penetrating portrayal . . . that best displays [Anyi's] gifts as a novelist."--The New York Times
Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao--a girl born of the longtang
, the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai's working-class neighborhoods--seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant. This fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the Anti-Rightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of "old Shanghai"--a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication--only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth.
From the violent persecution of communism to the liberalism and openness of the age of reform, this sorrowful tale of old China versus new, of perseverance in the face of adversity, is a timeless rendering of our never-ending quest for transformation and beauty."A beautifully constructed cyclical narrative . . . ingenious . . . As the novel builds to its tragic conclusion, the manner in which character types and events recur against the city's shifting backdrop is impossible to forget."--Publishers Weekly
"[A] literary masterpiece . . . The story is spellbinding, colorful, and sad; the writing is dense and thoughtful . . . a page-turner right up to the end."--Historical Novel Society