I just started this last night. I decided not to read the description on the back, or anything about it when I started, so I had nothing to base my first impressions on except the writing. About 25 pages in and I’m once again awed by the way that Tan gets her characters. As expected, the novel is very woman-focused. She’s set up the initial chapters as West vs. Chinese, with the main character, 7 yrs old, talking about how she’s different as an American, how the Chinese men and women are different from the Westerners who come to Shanghai to trade. Tan cuts through the romanticizing of differences that a lot of people seem to use in order to avoid talking about an uncomfortable subject, and uses these stereotypes and assumptions as a catalyst for her story. She allows her characters–as much as I’ve seen of them so far–to be both flawed and admirable.
I look forward to the next 500 pages.