“Trixi Pudong and The Greater World” by Audrey Mei (2016)
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Page Length: 338 pages (electronic review copy)
Revolution rages in 20th-century China, a rusting container ship sails the world for two decades, and a tiny fairy is frustrated in a northern harbor town. “Trixi Pudong and the Greater World” is a family saga with a magical twist, spanning Shanghai’s Golden Age to Hamburg, Germany, 2015. It is a tale of four generations of a Chinese family, torn between their deepest dreams and loyalties.
Shanghai, 1938. The city is under Japanese occupation, civil war brews in China’s interior. Edwin Kuo is eight years old, obsessed with the question “Why the difference?” between China and the Greater World, the world outside his country’s borders. He ventures into the Greater World by working with the British Merchant Navy through WWII. In the 1960s, trapped behind the Chinese Communists’ closed-door policies, he becomes a sea captain and sails on a decrepit container ship for twenty years with his sons, caught between the desire to defect from China and the hope of re-uniting with his wife and mother, missing since the Cultural Revolution.
Edwin’s aunt, Ahn Na, is a flamboyant socialite of 1940s Shanghai. She seeks diversion from her dull marriage through opium, nightclubs, and a mysterious red-haired Brit.
Little Two is Edwin’s younger son. At age 25 he has not stepped foot on land since he was a small child. He knows only the container ship and the sea but gives in to a burning curiosity one night, venturing onto foreign land, into a raucous German harbor town.
In Hamburg 2015, the spirit of Ahn Na from Shanghai is now Tita Pasang, an overweight, anxiety-ridden fairy, working tirelessly to rescue her grand-niece – half-Chinese Trixi, the product of Little Two’s brief land adventure – from a purposeless life of drug addiction.
If only Trixi understood what it means to be her family’s last hope…
Trixi Pudong and The Greater World is a story that travels through periods of time. The plot is centered around one family’s story .From the beginning of the novel, readers are immediately transported to 1938 China during the World War Two.Our main character is Edwin who seems to be a young boy who takes way too much for granted, doesn’t listen to his parents,and fails to realize all the sacrifices his parents made for him in order to have a better life and education.
The story is set in Shanghai which seems to be crowded by the rich and poor, on top of that there is much poverty which we see detailed through the city’s description. After his father passes, Edwin declines even further realizing that he should have listened to his father more when he was alive. Him and his mother struggle to make ends meet during turbulent times and eventually gets so bad that she has to keep renting out parts of the house to tenants. I felt so much sympathy for his mother who is trying to raise him on so little money (and by herself) and strives not to show how much she is really suffering.
Among the historical background we see the terror, horrible conditions, and tensions that arise in Shanghai due to World War Two. Readers see Edwin trying to find the “greater world” that his father always talked about, by going on a journey with sailors where he eventually gets caught in the midst of the war. I learned more about the period of Japanese occupation in China, the bombing of Nagasaki as well as the rise of the Nationalist party. Reading this book opened my eyes to a part of world history I wasn’t very familiar with. It isn’t till he becomes older that I started to sympathize with him because he starts to take things seriously and realize/learn from his past mistakes.
It was intriguing to see how the family dynamic changes over the course of the story, every character’s story was heart-wrenching, and real. The author never strays away from the atrocities of the time making the historical aspects very authentic. I enjoyed the complexities of each character and how everything comes full circle in the end. The only issue I had with the novel is that the story jumps around a lot and that there is a bit too much information packed into one book.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.