Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Smoke Paper Mirrors: A short saga for our times Paperback – March 20, 2017
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2017
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle Edition for FREE. Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The unfolding of lives and stories through the careening history of China in the 20th Century and the moments granted to several generations of extraordinary people are rendered with tenderness, sorrow, humor and ferocity. These are stories of love, friendship and unceasing transformation, literally, perhaps, the story of an all consuming caterpillar- being and its all encompassing unfolding.
The whole thing has a lightness and then such shadows which leave a not quite graspable, but profound tracery.
It's just great and should somehow be a best-seller.
Here's a tiny sample chosen at random:
"When he was four or five, he once asked his mother, "Where does time go?" His father would have been angry at such a nonsense question. His mother said,"Round and round."
There are not many books I think about for too long after having read them, but Smoke Paper Mirrors by Anna Tambour is an exception, because, although much of the novel mirrors real life to some extent, in the end it becomes a very strange book indeed. Apart from which, Tambour’s writing has a richness to it that dissuades the reader from moving on too speedily— she lays before your imagination such lush and magical scenes, such jewel-like descriptions that you have to surface from time to time and ponder upon them, and it is easy to see that she loves language and words, and of course, books.
Although Smoke Paper Mirrors covers a great deal of time and the reader is not given much detail about the separate lives of the characters, Tambour, with great skill, provides just the right touches to bring about empathy in the reader for them, and a desire to know their fates. Towards the end of the story Zhang Wenge changes his name to Arthur Zhang and goes to Australia where he struggles with non-acceptance and can’t get a job. But he has a lucky break when Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, allows the many thousands of Chinese students to stay in Australia after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Arthur gets a loan, buys land, and sets up a shop, ‘Zhang’s Infinite Immortals Fruit and Veg.’
Although they are fleetingly present in the first pages of the book at this point, new characters are introduced fully in the form of Melmet and her husband, Bülent, a quaint and romantic Turkish couple who run a restaurant. Arthur and the couple become friends, and there are some particularly moving passages about the power and nature of the friendship between Bülent and Arthur, both immigrants to Australia, and from time to time the book strikes out at the snobbery, cruelty and ignorance of many Australians towards outsiders. Tambour has a big feeling for the outsider in society, and this is not surprising as she is one herself.
Of the many elements I enjoyed in Smoke Paper Mirrors, one thing I liked particularly is that the characters often give each other wonderful gifts, the kind of gifts more likely to be found in dreams, I feel. Along the same lines, there is also a curious edge of the mystical about the book, although it’s hard to quite grasp why… fittingly so, perhaps. But the engravings by John Tenniel of the caterpillar with a hookah in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came welcome to my mind, after reading Smoke Paper Mirrors, and Tenniel’s life and career, according to his biographer, Rodney Engen, ‘was that of the supreme gentlemanly outsider, living on the edge of respectability.’ I think there are some resonances there.
Enough on themes. Just buy the book. Buy it and see why you should be thankful for thousands of years of human culture. The writing is superb. Tambour presents gifts on every page. But it’s the framing that makes you want to return to the art within. There’s absolute control of craft in this, not dry in any way; the wordplay is alive and filling, never empty for the sake of display. This is a magnificent book with a capital B. “Magical” is an overused word so I don’t see why I shouldn’t get to use it too. Smoke Paper Mirrors feels like an excellent magic trick. You want to flip it, shake it, and turn it over to see how Tambour achieved her effects. It's a science fiction, it's a fantasy, it's an historical piece, it's drama and realism, comedy, intrigue, romantic, sad, uplifting all at the same time. It's damn near a play. Characters do what their stories require of them, and then they exit—which happens every day in the non-paper world—but not luridly, which actually makes every emotional impact that much stronger. It all works, and as a reader you want to know, "How did she do that?!"
Buy this to be entertained. Read it to be amazed. Enjoy the camaraderie and respect of a writer who respects you beyond your ability to one-click.
If you're patient and appreciative of beauty, you're guaranteed a reward.