Thursday, July 31, 2014

Potions and Paper Cranes by Lan Fang

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Historical Novel Review
Read: May 26, 2014

A stark, honest portrayal of cursed love during the Japanese occupation of Java and the struggle for Indonesian independence. Sulis is a young woman selling potions in Surabaya's harbor district. She meets Sujono, a coolie with dreams of becoming a freedom fighter, and whose passion for Matsumi, a geisha called to Java by a Japanese general, is destined to ruin all of them. In Potions and Paper Cranes, each tells the story of their lives during the end of World War II and Indonesia's transition from a Dutch colony to an independent republic.

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My nose for World War II lit led me to Lan Fang's Potions and Paper Cranes, but my appreciation for the novel has nothing to with global events of the period. Shocking as it sounds, it was Fang's depiction of individual experiences that captured my imagination. 

The main story shifts points of view between Sulis, Sujono and Matsumi, something I liked as the role of each character alters with each narrative voice. It is an approach few could manage, but I felt Fang handled it beautifully. Another thing I liked was contrast in Fang's approach to Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese culture and how those influences might have interacted during the uncertainty brought on by the larger conflict.   

deeply intuitive tale, Potions and Paper Cranes is a naked assessment of human nature, a haunting narrative that touches something in the reader's soul and shakes them to the core. 

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Life taught me that I did not need to give answers because He would make arrangements. Life was a skillful player - I had befriended Him when I was child and knew He did not need any answer from me. Life would determine my fate.
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