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Love in a Fallen City (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 321 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171780
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171783
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Chang died in 1995 in Los Angeles, having emigrated to the U.S. in 1955 at 35. These six stories, most available in English for the first time, were published to acclaim in China and Hong Kong in the '40s; they explore, bewitchingly, the myriad ways love overcomes (or doesn't) the intense social constraints of time and place. In the compact "Sealed Off," Shanghai briefly shuts down in defense against a blockade, and strangers on a tram allow their inner yearnings to surface, with consequences at once momentous and static. In the layered title story, a couple taunt each other with false estrangements as they fall in love, then are forced to confront one another directly through wartime privations. The startling novella "The Golden Cangue," told with upstairs-downstairs shifts in perspective, fugues around a wife, resentful of her disabled husband and reviled by his family, who seeks reassurance in opium. In these eloquent tragedies, Chang plunges readers in medias res. She expertly burdens her characters with failed dreams and stifled possibilities, leads them to push aside the heavy curtains of family and convention, and then shows them a yawning emptiness. Their different responses are brilliantly underplayed and fascinating. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Chang, a popular writer in China during World War II, immigrated to the United States in the 1950s, where she continued to write until her death in 1995. This posthumous collection contains six vibrant stories that depict life in post-WWII China. In "Aloeswood Incense," Weilong, a girl from Shanghai, calls on her aunt, a not-quite-respectable cosmopolitan widow, for financial assistance so that she can continue her college education. Her aunt agrees on the condition that Weilong stay with her, and then proceeds to manipulate the young girl's love life. "Jasmine Tea" revolves around a young man burning with resentment over the ill treatment he has received for most of his life from his father and stepmother. He turns his ire on the daughter of the man his mother loved, with disastrous consequences. In "Sealed Off," a stifled accountant sits next to a young English teacher on the tram, and the two end up connecting, albeit briefly. Evocative and vivid, Chang's stories bristle with equal parts passion and resentment. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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See all 13 customer reviews
Chang's characters are so interesting and complicated.
Chang's experiences with love and Eastern versus Western society prominently affected her written work.
Love in a Fallen City can be appreciated more in the backdrop of Chinese history.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Tytherleigh on April 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
There is no room for a fullfilled romance here. Broken dreams, shared pain and loss. Oh could love get worse? Well yes especially when it was the woman you were dating that turned you onto Zhang Aileen and then created her own real life version of these stories.

Since the release of Ang Lee's Lust Caution which was based on one of Zhang's short stories, interest in this unusual and reclusive writer has been revived. This collection of short stories is a collection of characters whose fatal flaws and their circumstances conspire against them to shatter any illusion of love. They are so sad and you are thrilled when there is a glimmer of love and softness between them.

The stories all have a common theme: that love will never triumph between lonely people - that their loneliness brings them together for the wrong reasons and will also ultimately keep them apart.

The translator has done an amazing job of preserving the spartan nature of the prose and maintaining the author's voice - these stories are emotionally draining - but not heavy going. The characters are finely drawn and there is a lightness of language that evokes the fragility of love.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By quaziheart on May 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Often brandished as a feminist writer for her conscious choice to put female leads in her short stories, to me, Elieen Chang is actually more of a hopeless-romantic. The heroines within the collection of short stories, like Eileen Chang herself are elitists-one of a handful of people having money, leisure, and education. And like Elieen Chang, her heroines are searching for love in a turbulent time of change and chaos in Post-WWII China.

Her characters don't care for women equality or political agendas, they have enough on their plates when they are free to pursue their own love lives rather than to be arranged married, which is radically new for that era. Armed with elitist ammos of idealism and wit, these heroines are able to charm their lovers and seducers to be their eventual husbands. And through their quest for romance, the heroines overcome heavy obstacles of archaic traditions, portrayed by old-school fathers or menacing mother-in-laws.

Love in a Fallen City can be appreciated more in the backdrop of Chinese history. Shanghai is the frontier of modernizing China, struggling to break free from the feudalistic traditions of the past, particularly confining to women. As an introspective, intelligent, hopeless-romantic woman writer, Elieen Chang has already overcome barriers by creating characters that are just learning how to play the game of love.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elle on January 10, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After the film adaptation of Lust, Caution, interest in Eileen Chang's work has resurfaced, and I think that the half a dozen stories anthology features some of her better stories.

Love in a Fallen City contributes to a view of love that might leave the reader a little disillusioned with love, but is certainly worth reading, as her stories make a rich impression. Each features a heroine often burdened by social and familial expectation when she encounters love, as in the titular story. Because of such burdens, love becomes an escape or even an illusion built in her mind and becomes a fascinating study of the female psyche as well as of the female voice during the development of the modern China.

Chang's prose is lyrical and the stories will go by quickly if read for pure pleasure, but take a moment to slow down and absorb the characters and settings. The symbolism is sometimes raw and sometimes subtle, but the stories always rich with emotion and sincerity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jacob on October 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
Love in a Fallen City is a collection of stories by Eileen Chang. The stories take place in China and Hong Kong around the 1940s. While each story is independent they are all connected in their themes of romance in a turbulent time in Chinese history as well as the cultural struggle between traditional and modern lifestyles. This collection of stories elegantly portrays a troubled society by using these stories of relationships as a beacon to a much bigger occurrence. Rather than describing an important event in Chinese history Eileen Chang has communicated it to us through the use of relatable characters and thought provoking symbolism.
All these novels share some kind of romance as well as a much bigger conflict. In some ways the stories come full circle in terms of this theme, the romance has symbolism to the real conflict while at the same time it is the conflict itself that brings the problems within the romance. In the story "Love in a Fallen City" Liusu expresses a feeling of hopelessness noting that her room and her heart were empty and that her stomach was empty from there being no food in the house. In this small thought we can see both Liusu's struggle in her romance and the scarcity because of the war all contributing to her overall desperation.
Perhaps the most universal similarity of these stories in regards to both of these themes is the static element all the stories share in some way. In "Sealed Off" for example the beginning and end even have dialogue that is identical. This represents a bigger message from Eileen Chang. The static nature of these stories could be thought to be a metaphor for their culture in this time period.
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