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


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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.)
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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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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: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 29 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 14 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 8 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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By Kendal on October 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Eileen Chang's Love in a Fallen City is a wonderful collection of stories that mirror Chang's life and the historical period in which they were written. Chang had a rather tumultuous family life growing up and that is heavily reflected in her stories. Her mother was not very present in her life and her father was an opium addict, resulting in an unstable family life. This aspect of Chang's life is played out in her stories, such as Jasmine Tea and in some respects Love in a Fallen City as well. In general, Chang tends to be very critical of family structures in her works. Chang attended University in Hong Kong, which is also heavily portrayed in her stories, as most of the characters have some educational background. In addition, she studied English Literature, like many of her characters. Most of her stories are set in the early forties', during the Sino-Japanese war, which is a subtle but usually critical part of the plotlines. As for historical context, Eileen Chang was writing during the time of the May Fourth Movement, which was an extremely important time period in China. The idea behind the May Fourth Movement was essentially "out with the old, in with the new," meaning out with the old Confucius ideas and ways of life. This is very important to consider while reading Chang's works, as themes that tie into the May Fourth Movement run throughout her stories.
There are many themes that consistently run throughout Chang's works, however on of the most notable themes, is the idea of old versus new or young versus old. In the first story of the book Aloeswood Incense, right from the beginning description of the main character, Weilong, she's described as having a "'powder-puff face' that would be considered old-fashioned nowadays." (9).
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