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Why had I never come across Amy Tan before? I had to have words with myself for having missed this beautiful author for so long. The Hundred Secret Senses just appeared on my bookshelf. I don?t know where from, must have been a forgotten Christmas or Birthday present that I never got around to reading because I, oh ignorant one, had never heard of the author. It?s true, I can be a book snob. I hang my head in shame. But eventually it worked it?s way to the top of the pile, and oh my, this is well worth reading. Tan delivers for us a delicious tale of sisterhood, woven across temporal and geographical oceans. Richly descriptive she presents the conflict of modern American perspectives and traditional Chinese myths and beliefs. The story begins with the death of Olivia?s father, and the news that he had another child in China that he had never told his American family about. The girl is duly reclaimed and brought to live with her half brothers and sisters, and here begins the real journey. Often highly surreal in nature, but gorgeously written. The characters are all well developed, all very real even when Kwan, the elder Chinese sibling, takes us into her world of the ?Yin? people. Basically she sees ghosts. Kwan never questions the validity of these Yin people, but Olivia, her younger sister, brought up in America, finds Kwan?s Chinese belief system unpalatable and hard to swallow. The tension between these two as Olivia recoils from her roots, and Kwan, childlike in her personality, guides and watches over her makes a fantastic read. Tan deals with themes of family, love, spirituality, racial stereotypes, and illustrates for us a vivid picture of historical China in some of Kwan?s past life memories, culminating in a tense ending which I found totally gripping. The boundaries between real and imaginary are blurred to produce a work not entirely unlike that of writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But it?s ve
ry easy to read. Tan has written this so well that I never found myself questioning any of the reincarnation or more bizarre parts of the story. There are no flat characters and the whole book is seamlessly rich and dazzling, opening the doors to a new world. I would very much recommend that you read this. It is unlike anything else I have read for a while. Published by Flamingo, at £6.99, and Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction in 1996. I think this is something that should have come to my attention long ago. And I am now scanning the bookcases for any other overlooked gems.
I have just last night finished reading "A Hundred Secret Senses" by the author of "The Joy Luck Club", Amy Tan. A very talented writer, Amy Tan explores the cultural differences of the ancient east and the modern west, through the compelling characters of Kwan and her sister Libby. Olivia is half-Chinese and American born. She tries to retain a Western outlook on life and is relatively successful - until the arrival of her half-sister Kwan. Kwan arrives from China following the death of their father and shakes 'Libby-ah's' (Kwan's name for Olivia) world. Olivia is only a young child when the story begins and Kwan's talk of the yin (undead) people and her constant contact with them is a little scary for Olivia. She tries to push Kwan away, embarrased by Kwan's ability to stand-out in the crowd and make an unconcious fool of herself. As a result Olivia always tries to retain a sense of rationality in contrast to Kwan's communication with the dead and superstitious personality. She does this even when she is intrigued by Kwan's memories of her past lives in China. Olivia never lets Kwan know that she is a little startled by Kwan's insight into the supernatural, and is intentionally distant from it. But Kwan holds an unconditional love for her half-sister and never lets this get in the way of her need to be with 'Libby-ah'. Kwan is always there to look out for Olivia. Olivia's relationship with her college-love, husband Simon is very important to the story. When they start divorce proceedings Kwan tries everything to bring them back together. She orchestrates a plan to bring Olivia and Simon to her homelands, and here the story really shines. Tan's ability to swing the story from America -where Olivia holds the upper-hand- to China, where Kwan does, is very powerful. We enter a different world and Kwan's yin people begin to hold a particular importance to the pr
esent. Olivia's realisation of the importance of her sister is brought to her attention in both a dramatic and typically preserved Chinese fashion. Amy Tan manages to capture the essence of the Eastern way, everything is for a reason, and material comfort hold a lot less importance in life. The traditions and the lives of those the in the past are far more important in shaping the fate and destinies of Kwan and her sister than you would realise. This is a powerful book, yet in a quietly dignified way. It does not share the prestige of the Joy Luck Club - which is a shame, because I enjoyed this book far more. It is easy to read with Tan's confident writing style. It can be a little difficult to follow initially, due to the many yin people we are introduced to, however stick with it, as you will be richly rewarded - I promise! There is a twist to the tail of the story and be warned, it gets emotional and tears are inevitable. The final quarter of the story should be read in private, so you can really get into it. (I haven't spoiled the story - there is nothing more annoying!)
This is another good book b Amy Tan who wrote the Joy Luck Club which was made into a hit movie. The Hundred Secret Senses tells about a mixed American-Chinese girl, Libby whose life was transformed when her half sister, Kwan from China came to stay with her in America. Kwan believes that she can see and talk to ghosts which made her parents (for a short while) decide to put her in psychiatric ward for the mentally disturbed. On leaving the hospital, she still insists on her ghost communication abilities although the only person she chooses to confide in is her sister Libby. Libby goes though life affected by this not just directly but indirectly. In the end, when she reluctantly makes a trip to China with Kwan, this becomes her place of self discovery. The book can be slightly confusing in the beginning due to the introduction of many 'ghostly characters' in between the present life story of Libby and her family. On further reading, it gets better and the best part for me was the ending which was quite unexpected. Like any good book, it has a good 'twist' to it :) Generally, it is a well written book which can provide many hours of enjoyable reading.