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Dragon Springs Road: A Novel Paperback – January 10, 2017
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“Janie Chang’s second novel is a remarkable read, brimming with magic and the grit of realism. . . . With this novel, Chang asserts herself as an exciting, relatable voice . . . that requires us to re-examine our relationships to place, identity, and ancestry. (Quill & Quire (starred review))
“[B]eautifully told . . . fascinating . . . a great choice for a book club.” (Huffington Post)
“Chang unfurls this intriguing story—set against the chaotic backdrop of China in the early twentieth century-with precision. Rich with detail and a fascinating interplay between the spiritual and earthly realms, Chang’s second novel explores whether it is possible to overcome your past.” (Booklist)
“Lyrical and magical . . . Chang’s lovingly crafted novel will resonate with readers long after the story is done.” (RT Book Reviews)
“Janie Chang has a keen eye for detail and infuses them throughout this magical story, with its masterfully rendered setting of the early Chinese republic, characters who bring to life the constrictions of those girls, and a mystical benevolent spirit. The result is enchanting.” (Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of Secret Daughter and The Golden Son)
“Dragon Springs Road is simply one of the best novels I have read in a long time. With her lyrical, heartfelt portrait of a vanished world . . . Janie Chang has created an enchanting and unforgettable book. I recommend it unreservedly.” (Jennifer Robson, bestselling author of Moonlight over Paris)
From the Back Cover
In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both the Chinese and Europeans. Without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.
Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the haunted courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.
Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, guided by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past. But she finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue, a relationship that jeopardizes her friendship with Anjuin, and a forbidden affair that brings danger to the man she loves.
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Top Customer Reviews
I am a fiction editor and when it comes to the books I’m willing to read for pleasure, I’m beyond picky. If I don’t like a book, I simply won’t finish it. I inhaled DRAGON SPRINGS ROAD in two days. I knew nothing about this author or her novel before I bought the book. I was simply searching around on Amazon, looking for a novel based in China and the plot intrigued me.
Not only is DRAGON SPRINGS ROAD rich with detail and beautifully written, it weaves magical realism with cultural and political history into a vivid story about Jialing, a young Eurasian girl who has been abandoned and is routinely rejected in early 1900s Shanghai. The magical realism element, in the form of a fox, adds to the richness of the story and is a natural fit. Ms. Chang does a spectacular job of describing the sights, sounds, and smells of Shanghai and she adeptly captures the difficult political and cultural climate of the times. The painful plight of women who have no prospects is addressed intelligently and compassionately.
I’m looking forward to reading more from Ms. Chang. This is one of the strongest books I’ve read in a long time.
I don’t want my review to rehash the plot nor do I want to ruin the reading experience of others. There is a fox spirit in the novel that is the guardian and lifeline for the main character, Jailing. Fox was one of my favorite characters and her search for the door to the land of the immortals was heartbreaking at times.
This is a beautiful novel and I want to share one of my favorite passages that captures why the search for love and happiness is worth the pain of being human:
“I don’t believe in happy endings. It’s enough to feel life so intensely. Happiness that makes your heart twist in pain, Jailing, the exquisite pain of knowing such happiness will end.”
"Dragon Springs Road" tells a compelling story, complete in its lyrical descriptions of Fox, the spirit guiding Jialing, and of the settings in which the narrative takes place. Characters are realistic; they do what they must to survive within the culturally accepted practices of the time. Jialing is a strong individual and appeals to the reader both in her strength and her vulnerability.
Janie Chang's novel is one I will be recommending to others. It kept me reading, without stopping, from cover to cover.