From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai—a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother.
That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . .
In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.
Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the haunted courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.
Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, guided by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past. But she finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue, a relationship that jeopardizes her friendship with Anjuin and a forbidden affair that brings danger to the man she loves.
About the author
Janie Chang writes historical novels that draw upon family history for inspiration. She grew up listening to stories about ancestors who encountered dragons, ghosts, and immortals, and about family life in a small Chinese town in the years before the Second World War. Her second novel, Dragon Spring Road, was released in January 2017. Her first novel, Three Souls was a finalist for the 2013 BC Book Prizes fiction award, one of 9 Canadian novels long listed for the 2015 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Born in Taiwan, Janie has lived in the Philippines, Iran, Thailand, and New Zealand. She now lives in beautiful Vancouver, Canada with her husband and Mischa, a rescue cat who thinks the staff could be doing a better job.
Janie Chang’s passionate storytelling expertly straddles a thin line between historical fiction and magical realism. Her lyrical prose presents an intriguing plot, unforgettable characters and relationships, a strong sense of place, and a vivid description of Chinese society. Recommended by critics and peers, this coming-of-age story juxtaposes Jialing’s heart-rending search for identity against the chaotic politics of the early Chinese Republic. It is easy to draw parallels between the plight of Chang’s characters and her larger depiction of power dynamics and our world today.