From the intriguing title to the final, inevitable end, I was totally enthralled by this novel.
Set in China, before the outbreak of World War Two, “The Dancing Girl and the Turtle” tells the story of Anyi Song, who on her way to live with relatives in Shanghai, is involved in a horrific incident that will colour the rest of her life.
Although she is loved and cared for by her cousin Cho, she cannot settle in this vibrant and complex city and must carve her own way through the web of family obligation, guilt and her need to be her own woman.
Karen Kao brilliantly conveys the atmosphere of a decadent, yet enticing metropolis. Her characters are vividly drawn and the unusual structure, where Anyi and her cousin Cho speak in the first person, while all the other characters are written in the third person intensifies the reader’s involvement with the protagonist at the same time allowing for multiple points of view, which add richness to the novel.
The language is lyrical and although there is much violence and suffering there are also images of great beauty, such as Cho’s description of his cousin, which has the spareness of an Oriental print.
“Her eyebrows are delicate birds in flight and beneath them lie her dark lashes and their shadows. Her skin could be porcelain but for the two spots of red high on her cheeks.”
“The Dancing Girl and the Turtle” is both a beautiful and a tragic book and I cannot thank Karen Kao enough for giving me the opportunity to read and review it.