Thursday, March 1, 2012
Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home by Veronica Li
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Flora Li was born in Hong Kong, lost her father at an early age, and fought against society and family alike for her right to a good education. Her life story spans China's invasion by the Japanese, and the subsequent civil war with the communists - and through marriage to the son of Chiang Kai-Shek's deputy prime minister, she finds herself unwittingly thrust into the heart of national politics.
The first part of the book tells of childhood hardships and extended families; connections which will prove invaluable when the war starts. Indeed, the impression from this book is that almost everyone in China has relatives in every town. This all takes place before the "one child policy" - in Flora's world, a man isn't even limited to one wife! Then war makes Flora a refugee, and she has to leave her hard-won place at Hong Kong university to look for safety in mainland China.
Once she is married, Flora dedicates herself only to her family, throughout the chaos which carries her across China, to Thailand and Taiwan, and finally America. She feels she has wasted her education, spending her life instead as a refugee and then as wife and mother, and her enduring commitment is to give her five children every chance she never had.
This is a fascinating autobiography (or possibly a biography, as it's technically written by the subject's daughter, based on her mother's stories), and gives a number of insights into a turbulent period of Chinese history.
Buy Journey across the Four Seas on Amazon