by Sa Shan
In this Chinese twist on Romeo and Juliet set in war-torn 1930s Manchuria, a sexually precocious Chinese girl and an officer with the invading Japanese army become trapped by fate, like pieces in a board game. The girl sleeps with a Chinese rebel who dreams of the future; the officer dwells on his past. The would-be lovers fin each other anonymously in the town square and begin a game of Go, the ancient board game that involves traps. The pair soon realize it is they who are ensnared: the soldier by his samurai code of honor, the girl by a dangerous love triangle. Sa’s novel builds much like a game of Go. The slow, merely pretty story evolves into a rich metaphor for the struggle between an ancient society and a modern one, and the battle between the easy innocence of adolescence and the painfully gained knowledge of adulthood. If you enjoyed the similar theme of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, you’ll like this.