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Cloud Mountain - Aimee Liu
Member Name: dawnymarie
Cloud Mountain - Aimee Liu
Date: 02/07/12, updated on 03/07/12 (90 review reads)
Advantages: Competent historian
What attracted me to this one?
I have to admit that the cover appealed to me and the title sounded romantic. The blurb caught my attention and after reading a review I decided to purchase and give this a chance.
One big book...
The first thing that struck me when the book arrived was the amount of pages that I had committed to. It seemed pretty thick and I was surprised when I discovered the page count was 659 as it seemed many more. I was eager to begin though so the volume of pages had not deterred me.
Set in the early 1900's and in America we meet the leading lady of this epic tale, Hope Newfield. For the last few years she has been deliberating an engagement with a successful American man, though it is clear that she feels nothing for him. When she is asked to give private tuition in English to a young Chinese man she is not prepared for the attraction that will be evident between them and it is soon afterwards that she decides she cannot become engaged to a man that she doesn't love. Hope's love for Leong Po - Yu (who she names Paul) blossoms and it is too much for them to bear being apart even though marriage will provoke the locals - racism is evident and mixed marriage is not tolerated well. An awkward train journey delivers them in separate class carriages to a location where a priest is prepared to join them in marriage although it can only ever be low key. Soon after their joining and the birth of Pearl, their daughter, Paul returns to do his revolutionary work in China. His small family are sent for once he is settled and here we see Hope subjected to racism too. From now on Hope will follow her husband around China, spending long periods of time without him, as he follows his dream in revolutionising his country. Is their love strong enough to see them through the trials of a changing country?
And so the epic saga began...
I soon settled with the writing style of Aimee Liu and thought it, at times, quite eloquent. The descriptive passages leave little out and I had a good idea of what the home was like that Hope shared with a landlady. As the prose begins in 1906 and is set in America it took me a while to flow with the passages. Also, it took me some time to warm to the main protagonist, Hope. She has lost the love of her life in an accident and still remembers him fondly. For some years she has had the attention of another who she does not love but can't decide if she should marry or not. I was relieved when she met Leung Po - Yu (Paul) as there was an indication that she may feel something for him and it would speed her along with her decision to marry. After an earthquake wreaks havoc in the locale she realises that her decision must be no and ends her relationship in order to pursue a new one with Paul - who is literally waiting in the wings.
I was surprised by how soon the new lovers made arrangements to be married but found it believable that two people can feel so strongly about one another in a short space of time. Paul is Chinese and is in America to study. He also heads a newspaper that is helping in the revolution in China. Much of his time is spent on this cause and he has powerful contacts pulling his strings - not least his paternalistic mother who resides in China and is woefully angered by his marriage to Hope. I really didn't know what to make of Paul at all. I understood the cultural differences and it was interesting to note things such as not holding hands in public - but try as I might I couldn't recognize any real passion coming from this guy. He appeared to genuinely love Hope but I didn't have goose bumps when they came together for the first time or married and spent the night together. When they had been apart for a while he arrived back and I readied myself for some real emotive scenes - it didn't happen.
After settling, eventually, into a home of their own and near her good friend Mary Jane, I enjoyed the developments in the relationship between Hope and Paul and seeing them overcome radical hatred. They had some tough experiences to endure and also a joyous one when their beloved daughter, Pearl, was born. All seemed set for some nice additional characters to be developed when the tale is turned up on it's head and Paul returns to China with instructions for Hope and Pearl to follow. I was intrigued by how Paul's mother would receive his bride and daughter.
Throughout the book there are lots of political details which include many Chinese names. I found these to be difficult to remember and take with me through the prose. Each time they were mentioned I had forgotten who they where and what relevance they had. The passages of politics detracted from the story for me and I found it slowed the pace right down - I felt a bit bogged down by it at times and had to put the book away until I was inspired to continue. It is a shame that the politics and history could not have been interwoven in a more creative way so as to keep the pages turning as the story itself is intriguing and beautiful when it is allowed to flow.
In Shanghai Paul greets his small family and arranges local transport to their residence. I found the description of the environment thorough and had a great idea of the locale but once again I was impatient to be getting on with the story. Much of the time spent in Shanghai see's Hope without Paul as he is off on his political business. There are periods of interest when she makes a friend and starts to socialize with her as they are interesting together, this is short lived though, unfortunately.
A newborn son delights Hope and Paul who call him Morris. Pearl now has a playmate and all is rolling along nicely, until Paul leaves again.
The moment that I had anticipated arrived and a visit was arranged to Paul's tyrannical mother. This I found really interesting and horrifying at the same time. The customs and traditions made for good reading and the pages turned quickly now. The visit was very short lived, though, so after a bit of excitement it was back to the normality of Hope on her own with the children and servants.
The title of the book gets a mention as the family have a mountain vacation to escape the heat. Some tender moments between Paul and his children made for heart warming reading but when it came to relations between himself and Hope it never really developed any heat and before I know it he has to be off again and they are back home.
I wanted so much more from this prose, I wanted Paul to excite me with his intense passion and love for his beautiful wife. I wanted to see her satisfied by his attention and apparent love. Moments of togetherness are few and far between and I was left feeling like I wanted more.
The tale rolls onwards and there are more destination changes to come along with war. Aimee is a very good historian and it all seems accurate. I can't fault her on that aspect of the book at all. She also has a nice way of writing and is competent, however, I would have loved more effort to have been put into the two characters and a bit of passion to keep me turning those pages.
There are a host of other characters who appear through the book, some I would have liked to have known a little better but mostly they were developed appropriately.
Hope and Paul where pretty well rounded and due to the period in time and cultural differences I think I got a good insight into Paul's personality. Hope was well rounded but still I didn't really connect with her or have an interest in her come the end of the book, I tried but it just didn't happen for me.
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I have reviewed this book honestly and for me it held more political and historical description than I like. I would also have liked to see more passion between Hope and her husband Paul. This does not mean to say that this book is bad in any way as it is far from it. Aimee is a competent writer and those of you who do enjoy lots of descriptive work will be in your element here as it is a wonderful concept. I like the fact that it is based on real life too. Aimee has done lots of research and it is evident as the historical detail and political content appears to be accurate. Her observation of racism and prejudice is impressive. At times in the book the pages did turn pretty quickly for me but I became disheartened when I had to get through passages of political content - it is an integral part of the story but for me less would have been more to benefit the pace of the prose. We are all different though and this is only my opinion - I like a faster pace in my books. Even though I couldn't get into it I feel the book still justifies a good 4 stars as I can see how it would appeal to others, it just wasn't for me.
Also published on Ciao
Summary: A nice concept that tells an epic tale