I haven't read this author before.
This is a slightly predictable story about a hot shot lawyer who goes to work in Shanghai; he is corrupted by the neo-colonial lifestyle in the Wild East and falls in love with a Chinese girl and has an affair with her after his wife and daughter have returned to Britain. The story is redeemed from the simplicity of a morality fable by the sincerity of the love shown by the lawyer to both wife and mistress, and by the strong character of the wife whose actions are in large part responsible for the lawyer's situation; in short there are genuine dilemmas posed here and no character is perfectly black or white.
The story is set against the colourful background of a town in which poor people are getting rich quick by exploiting other even poorer people. Genuine clashes of culture are explored and real economic dilemmas posed: is the capitalist way of enriching some while exploiting others right; should there be any limits on how a person exploits their talents to make money to survive (ie is prostitution OK?).
So it is a good story and even-handed in its treatment of most of the characters, so why didn't I enjoy it more? In some ways it was too well written: you could see the hallmarks of thorough research, the moral debates were too structured and too staged. One character's destruction was too obvious; Shanghai was too black and white a setting; the final pay off was too goody goody; the main character was too hot shot (given all the time off he kept sneaking one wondered how he ever got any work done at all let alone "he was billing more hours than anyone in the firm"). In short, the characters seemed like puppets against a theatrical background rather than flesh and blood. I never really believed.
August 2009, 405 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57