I am picking for the month of May a novel by Bette Bao Lord titled Spring Moon: A Novel of China. The book, written many years ago, is a powerful prose work that incorporated historical background to tell the story of a family (or a generation) as they metamorphose in tune with the volcanic history of China. I was enthralled with the book from its first page, where in the prologue we are introduced to the heroine of the story, a young girl called Spring Moon, who witnessed the suicide of her slave girl on a Cypress tree – in protest of a forced marriage. This sad presage foreshadowed the cataclysmic 100 years history of House of Chang (and China) to follow, seen through the eyes of Spring Moon.
The novel Spring Moon holds a lot of fascination for me. I enjoy the way the author prologues each chapter with a traditional poem, an anecdote, a short quote, or snippets of history. These witty openings added extra flavor and color to the story telling, bringing out the pristine culture of China and its ancient intellectuality for readers curious about the Asian superpower. I am also fascinated with the poetic names of the novel’s characters, which sorts of mirror their fate in the story and added an elegance to the novel. Names like Spring Moon, Resolute Spirit, Noble Talent, Lustrous Jade, Bold Talent, Glad Promise and others resound with me till today, just as well as the author’s flowing prose that made the book an absolute enjoyment to read.
No argument, you have to give it to Bette Bao Lord’s mastery of historical fiction. Her words flow clear and fast, dotted with lyric poems, wise sayings, suspense and cutting insights into the minds of revolutionaries and statesmen and all who partook in the fight to make China a sovereign nation. Reading the book to me was like watching a Spike Lee movie, a perfect rendition of fictional art that excited the brain and quickens the spirit. From the Boxer Uprising to the carnage that followed the many crisis and revolutions witnessed by the characters, the constant flights and fights, all to berth in a victorious and modern China nation, this multigenerational novel is a must read for every reader of classic book as the author outspent her genius in writing the story.
Personally, the scene involving the two revolutionary lovers who had to be hidden in the coffin meant for their dead Uncle in order to escape imminent death and the way Lustrous Jade was later implicated by the cloth she wore to the meeting with the American delegate were the highest points of the novel to me. You’d marvel at the brilliance of the author to capture these elements so poignantly, telling an old story with a new voice and bringing the hidden aspects of China to American as well as world readers. Little wonder it was celebrated and acclaimed at its maiden unveiling.
It was pure chance that I later got to know Bette Bao Lord was married to a distinguished American diplomat and when I did, I just exulted in the knowledge knowing it took a man of class and pedigree like him to marry a rare genius like Bette. I never get to read another Bette Bao Lord book and I look forward to finding one someday.
Books are written for many different reasons but a book that stands out is worth being celebrated and it is why I celebrate Spring Moon: A Novel Of China. It is a book of a lifetime, a piece of treasure, a moving movie set in ink. I wonder why it is yet to be made into a movie for the story will burn on Technicolor.
So there you have it book people. Go get the book and enthuse with me by reading a classic made in America for world enjoyment. Till next month, make love with abandon.
Author, Teacher, Naughty-Girl