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Inheritance: A Novel Paperback – August 17, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327113
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A complicated sister bond echoes through generations in this somber follow-up to Chang's well-received debut novella and stories, Hunger. In China in the early 1930s, sisters Junan and Yinan are inseparable, even as Junan matures into beauty and Yinan remains awkward and plain. Junan enters into an arranged marriage and falls in love with Li Ang, her soldier husband. Separated from him when the Japanese invade China, Junan sends the unmarried Yinan to keep her husband's household. What is intended as an arrangement of convenience turns to betrayal when Li Ang and Yinan have an affair. As China is divided by communism, the family is also rent in two. Junan and her daughters Hong (who is also the narrator) and Hwa end up in the States, while Yinan and Li Ang remain in mainland China with their son and are effectively banished from memory. It is memory—rather than dramatic action—at which Chang excels; her prose is lovely, but even images of the turmoil of war and displacement read at somewhat of a remove. Still, the sense of long family histories both spoken and unspoken is powerful, and the restrained conclusion has the force of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. Chang's sophomore effort may not chart new ground, but is still a solid effort.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In China in 1931, two sisters are coping with their grief in the aftermath of their mother's suicide. Cool, reserved Junan makes dreamy Yinan her primary focus and anchor, while their preoccupied father gambles away his fortune. As part of a reconciliation of his debts, he promises Junan in marriage to the young lieutenant Li-Ang. Although she struggles to preserve her distance and her dignity, Junan falls deeply in love with her new husband, but her upbringing and her mother's influence render her cold and possessive. When the young couple is separated during the Japanese invasion, Junan sends Yinan to stay with her husband, unconsciously setting in motion the betrayal that will haunt their family for generations. The novel, set in both China and the U.S., is narrated by Junan's daughter, and its inherent drama is heightened by the delicacy and restraint with which it is told. Chang fulfills the promise of her haunting short-story collection, Hunger (1998), with an elegant first novel that seems impossibly wise about the strictures of love and culture. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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It has the elements that I want when I am choosing a book to read.
Joan C. Frank
An evocative story with delicate, well-honed writing, this book, with its numerous themes, was for me a wonderful discovery.
Patricia Hinsberg
A compelling story of three generations of Chinese women during a tumultous time in China's history.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on August 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Several years ago, Lan Samantha Chang's magical and marvelous novella and short story collection HUNGER explored the sense of alienation, loss, and generational disjuncture of the immigrant experience in America. With INHERITANCE, she joins the ranks of Amy Tan, Anchee Min, Hong Ying, and Ha Jin as fictional chroniclers of Chinese history and the bridges Chinese people have constructed between their home country and America.

Lan Samantha Chang has crafted in INHERITANCE a sweeping novel whose characters lives' shadow the arc of 20th Century China, from the earliest days of the Republic to the modern era. Passing through the Japanese invasion, the Communist Liberation, the Cultural Revolution, the Taiwanese diaspora, and the opening to the West, the book moves from tranquil Hangzhou to war-torn Chongqing, from the temporary home of Kuomintang hopefuls in Taiwan to the permanent concession of the KMT's loss represented by the United States.

Ms. Chang's first full-length novel follows the fortunes of the Wang family through three generations and beyond, from old Chanyi to her daughters Junan and Yinan and then to their daughters Hong and Hwa and one son, Yao. While Hong provides the narrative voice (and the source of the existential question framed by the novel's title), her mother Junan is the novel's focal point, the eye of a family storm generated by her own choices as well as historical events beyond her control. The triangular relationship between Junan, her husband Li Ang, and her sister Yinan spawns unintended consequences that profoundly affect each other's lives and those around them.

Just as modern China is both the victim and inheritor of its own past, Ms.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In traditional China, girls were valued less than boys. If a woman failed to give her husband a male heir, she lost face and possibly her man to a woman who could bear sons. Hong, the narrator of this familial saga struggles with her role as a female caught between two worlds and two cultures, resisting a history of devalued women until Communism turns centuries upside-down and changes the face of China.

The writing is exquisite, as finely wrought as the Chinese characters on a page of poetry, Chang perfectly attuned to the lives of these women, their fierce attachments and rigorous self-control in a country in the throes of tremendous upheaval. Each generation speaks its truth through female characters, Chanyi, Hong's grandmother, Junan, her mother and Yinan, her beloved, if eccentric aunt. Hong speaks of her grandmother, whose heart is broken because she cannot bear a son. Chunyi passes this legacy on to her daughters, the beautiful Junan and the quiet, introverted Yinan. The country is in such turmoil that Junan cannot have the marriage she imagined, but must adapt to a constantly changing landscape that she cannot control.

This is China lived from inside the Revolution, the only hope of starving people, desperate for survival and resentful of the leaders who live freely off their labor. Junan's husband, Li Ang, is a Nationalist soldier, his brother, Li Bing, a Communist, the two men's political beliefs clashing, but the brothers drawn together by stronger ties of blood.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The story begins when two young girls accompany their mother to a 'fortune teller' who also is a nun at a Buddhist temple. Changyi who is 34 years of age, knows she must give birth to a boy to keep her husband from acquirng another wife. The nun tells her truthfully, some women have only girls, and some women learn to share their men. She also reveals the fortunes of the two daughters. Changyi feels hopeless and we learn she later dies an early death due to her grief. The two daughters, Junan and Yinan, although different physically and temperamentally, grow very close after their father takes on a new 'mistress' an addiction to gambling. He is a wealthy cotton merchant who goes into debt because of this. Several generations live in the family home, including his mother, who has a position of honor and great prestige. When the girls' mother was alive, they had a very loyal servant, Hu Mudan who helped raise the girls into young adults. After their mother's death, she became even more indispensable and valuable in their lives. Much later in the story she plays a very important role in the life of one of Junan's daughters.

Communism was challenging Nationalist China for supremacy and power just when Juan and Yinan were approaching the marriagable age. Junan entered into an arranged marriage with a soldier Li Ang who was a Nationalist. It turned out to be a "love match" just as predicted by the fortune-telling nun. His brother, Li Bing, who studied at the University, was influenced by the new ideology of Communism and took the view of the opposition. As the political tides turned, Junan gradually sold off her valuables in hopes of escaping the conflicts and difficult future ahead in her war-torn country.
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