Book Review: The Dancing Girl And The Turtle by Karen Kao


There seems to be a theme developing with the books that I'm signing up to review! In that they're books that are outside my usual realm of reading. I'm not one for venturing out of my reading comfort zone but when the sign up for the blog tour for this book popped up on Twitter, I was intrigued so I gave it a go and I am so glad I did.

A rape.
 A war. 
A society where women are bought and sold but no one can speak of shame. Shanghai 1937. 
Violence throbs at the heart of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.
Song Anyi is on the road to Shanghai and freedom when she is raped and left for dead. 
The silence and shame
that mark her courageous survival drive her to escalating self-harm and prostitution. From opium dens to high- class brothels, Anyi dances on the edge of destruction while China prepares for war with Japan. Hers is the voice of every woman who fights for independence against overwhelming odds.
The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is one of four interlocking novels set in Shanghai from 1929 to 1954. Through the eyes of the dancer, Song Anyi, and her brother Kang, the Shanghai Quartet spans a tumultuous time in Chinese history: war with the Japanese, the influx of stateless Jews into Shanghai, civil war and revolution. How does the love of a sister destroy her brother and all those around him? 

I find myself at a loss for words at how to describe this book, which is a little unfortunate when it comes to writing a review ;) 

As I've said before it's not my usual read. Karen's writing format is lyrical almost and beyond beautiful in a stark contrast to the haunting tale she is telling. Such a vivid picture is depicted that you are utterly transported into Anyi's world and her desperate downward spiral after the harrowing event that shapes her entire existence. The perspective of a culture and a time that is so different to what I have experienced and known was so fascinating to read.

There is immense tragedy but also great beauty in the imagery that Karen provides with her writing. This book is not for the faint of heart but I would wholly recommend it as I was gripped from start to finish! 



Karen Kao is the child of Chinese immigrants who settled in the United States in the
1950s.
As a young lawyer in Washington, DC, she fell in love with a Dutchman. Karen moved
with him to Amsterdam. Unfazed by a new language, culture and legal system, she
launched a second career as a high-flying corporate lawyer.
In 2011, she abandoned the law for a third career: a return to her love of writing and the
stories she heard as a child of Old Shanghai. She writes: ‘My heart belongs to Shanghai.
It’s the star of my novel.’
Kao is a former student of Lan Samantha Chang from the Paris Writers Workshop
(2013) and of Yiyun Li at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (2016).

Available now in paperback and ebook formats!
Buy the book here and here
Follow Karen on twitter: @karenkao5

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