Blue China by Bamboo Hirst

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Blue China by Bamboo Hirst

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: An intriguing memoir of a half-Chinese, half-Italian woman, and of her parents who meet prior to the outbreak of World War II.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Loki Books
ISBN: 978-0952942689

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Bamboo Hirst's parents were an Italian diplomat and a Chinese singer. They met in Shanghai, prior to World War II, and soon found themselves struggling against global events, as so many did. Bamboo herself moved to Italy when just 13, and made a life for herself there.

It's a fascinating set-up isn't it? With events like that - and real events no less - there's no way this couldn't be an enjoyable read. The pages of Blue China keep turning as Bamboo Hirst creates vivid impressions of China and Italy. Sue Rose's translation from the original Italian is as good as one could want - I completely forgot it was a translation. Observing the merging of cultures is very compelling.

Blue China is let down by its scenes based purely on relationships. The sections about Shanghai and the war fascinated me, and I was equally fascinated by the way people reacted to and in such situations. The passages about broader family relationships made for an interesting look at two cultures coming together. However, the purely one-on-one paragraphs, particularly between the father and mother, are disappointingly bland by comparison - almost unreal. It's always going to be a problem in a family memoir that begins before the author is born, but some judicious editing could have made such scenes less of a problem.

Whilst this issue doesn't completely change the whole book, it does take the shine of it. There's still plenty for the reader to enjoy, either as a look at multiculturalism, real people in extraordinary situations, or even just a good quality family saga. It's probably not fair of me to judge Blue China on what it could have been, rather than what it is, but that is, unfortunately, the feeling I was left with.

Anyone who is interested in the premise of the book will love it. A casual reader just looking for a good book to read would be better off borrowing Blue China from the library.

If you're wanting something else to read, look no further than J G Ballard's Empire of the Sun, which also features the Japanese invasion of Shanghai. Two recommendations for further reading? Read Empire of the Sun twice.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

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Buy Blue China by Bamboo Hirst at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Blue China by Bamboo Hirst at


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