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Thu Sep 13, 2012, 05:45 PM

I'd like to recommend Distant Land of My Father

Last edited Thu Sep 13, 2012, 09:04 PM - Edit history (1)

I believe this is Bo Caldwell's first novel and it is up there as the best fiction book I ever read.

It starts out at pre-World War II Shanghai. It is written from the perspective of the daughter and is first person - I'm not sure if that is the correct word. The narrator is the daughter rather than a story from one character's perspective but told through the lens of the narrator. If you didn't know it was fiction, you'd swear it was non-fiction. Anyways, this American father absolutely loves Shanghai and loves to tell his 7-year-old daughter about the city as often as he can.

Japan then moves into China, discusses the Marco Polo incident. He is a successful businessman who refuses to shut things down and leave before a war breaks out. He is certain Japan won't get far and Shanghai will pretty much be out of harm's way. When Japan does arrive in Shanghai he still refuses to leave even when wife and daughter move into the daughter's grandmother's house in LA.

Eventually he is imprisoned in harsh conditions, is released to the USA and he is anxious to return back. After the War he does but Shanghai isn't the same, nothing is the same. Then a civil war breaks out between the Nationalists and Communists. I won't give out any more than that.

I almost non-stop cried through that book. It reminds you of a time in your personal life when everything was perfect or better than ever and it reminds you that you can't go back to that time. I never really thought about World War II from China's perspective before but it made me so incredibly sad that the War changed this father-daughter relationship forever (tears are coming now as I type this) and the life that they had in a wonderful place that was never really the same as it was in the 1930's according to the book.

Even though this is her first novel, I don't believe I've read an author that is as skilled at using analogies as she is. She was very effective at writing the first part of the book from a child's perspective - how they took silly things literally (like when I was a kid, whenever my mom expressed worry that she was going to be fired, I thought her employer threw people in a fireplace). How the daughter looked at her parents, especially her father as Superheros and the first time she learned that they can be wrong.

After reading, I've been very interested in researching about Shanghai during the 1930's and two wars that followed and I found that that the book has things down to a T. That it was a huge international city where there was quite successful British and American businessmen. The locations. The streets and buildings are all there. The Bund is mentioned an awful lot in the book. Chinese City to the Southeast. The part of the city where foreigners lived. The road to the northeast where the father was imprisoned by the Japanese.

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Reply I'd like to recommend Distant Land of My Father (Original post)
JonLP24 Sep 2012 OP
Curmudgeoness Sep 2012 #1

Response to JonLP24 (Original post)

Thu Sep 13, 2012, 08:02 PM

1. Thanks for the recommendation.

I could use a good book and a newly discovered author. And I love books that have historic significance and I can learn about things I know nothing about.

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