Sunday, August 26, 2018

Han Suyin: A Many-Splendoured Thing

Found the Finnish translation (Päivien kimallus) of this romantic semi-autobiographical novel at my mother's villa. It's part of a collection of books inherited from my great-aunt, who traveled the world extensively in her younger years.
A Many-Splendoured Thing was authored by Han Suyin, which was the pen name of Elisabeth Comber who, not to make things too simple, was born Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chou. She was born in China to a Flemish mother and a Chinese father. The book deals extensively with her identity in between cultures as an Eurasian and describes life in Hong Kong during the Communist takeover in mainland China. The plot itself is a bitter-sweet love story of Han's relationship with a married British journalist, Mark. Han's sympathies with the communists are quite clear from the book and apparently earned her a lot of criticism.
For me, the biggest merit of the book was its description of life in Hong Kong, and the city itself in the late forties and early fifties, as well as the peek into old Chinese society in transition in Chong Qing. Han's style is not unlike Hemingway's in his description of life in Paris in A Moveable Feast. The story itself is a bit too syrupy for my taste. It was a best-seller in its time, though, so if you like a romantic story, give it a try. It was even made into a Hollywood movie shortly after its release.