Three interesting covers for this complex, extraordinary story of China during the Cultural Revolution. Actually the novel goes back and forth in time over decades.
Each of the three covers focuses on different characters in the novel. The first cover shows the main character La Ling. The third cover represents her father's friend, known by the name "Sparrow", who was a composer. The middle cover, I believe, represents La Ling's great aunt and uncle who endured the cruelty of labour camps. Actually, the great uncle went missing (portrayed well in the cover photo).
The most extraordinary thing about this book is the theme of classical music that weaves throughout the plot. The early characters were involved in the Shanghai Conservatory, until the drastic changes of the Cultural Revolution. The music constantly ran through the heads of the characters, especially Bach's Goldberg Variations, played by the Canadian musician Glenn Gould. I greatly enjoyed listening to this music on YouTube.
The title of the book comes from the Chinese song "The Internationale":
"Arise, slaves, arise!
Do not say that we have nothing
We shall be the masters of the world!"
Can you believe that I was entranced with this novel? I cannot believe it myself. How the author drew me into the lives of these characters and entwined me into the complexity of the story. Sometimes I had no idea what was going on. There was so much chaos, violence, separation, and death. The storyline was also chaotic- back and forth through the generations. Of course, it was so much more heart-breaking, because it was based on fact. But the beauty of the writing held me captive.
|Madeleine Thien- author|