“This is a beautifully written book, very clever. I love the intertwining of present and past through these biography letters Wang receives mysteriously, allowing the reader to visit these fantastical worlds in well known Chinese historical eras. Absolutely loved it. Can’t wait to read Susan Barker’s next book.”
“All of the incarnations end with gruesome murder, and most contain horrific sexual violence. After a while I began to think “oh not this again”, but having finished the book a few days ago now, I’m now thinking that this was the whole point. However many incarnations there have been or will be, neither soul learns anything – they’re still selfish, still driven to violence, still end up hurting each other. You’d think after so many reincarnations they’d be better at being human, but no, it’s the violence every time. Depressing, but honest.”
Joanne Leonard (@joannexleonard)
“The sense of place was written with a really vivid touch. I recognized Beijing and think I would have had a good feeling for the city even if I’d never lived there. I also liked the complexity of her characterisation – even the less sympathetic characters never became caricatures or villains. The strongest sections were, for me, the scenes from the two main characters’ past lives. The use of history was inventive and there was a nice restrained eeriness. It helped that the narrative voice was individual enough to carry through all of the different time periods.”
“The book is split between Beijing in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, and the various historical periods in China where protagonist Wang has been formerly reincarnated. I was definitely more impressed by these contained reincarnation stories than the storyline that ran through the contemporary sections of the book – I felt a bit underwhelmed by the climax, which would have annoyed me more had I not fallen head over heels in love with the writing style. Susan Barker builds worlds and characters that are completely vivid and real, and then tears these worlds apart so mercilessly I could feel myself developing trust issues with every passing page.”
The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered London Reading Group 2015 was the London Short Story Festival volunteers. Run by Spread the Word, London’s writer development organisation, the volunteers are a group of keen writers and readers from across London who support the running of this exciting literary event.