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The Peking Letter: A Novel of the Chinese Civil War

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ISBN 10: 1891620355 / ISBN 13: 9781891620355
Used Condition: Good
From Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana (Indianapolis, IN, U.S.A.)

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Title: The Peking Letter: A Novel of the Chinese ...

Book Condition:Good

About this title

Synopsis:

From the well-known New York Times correspondent who brought the Chinese Revolution alive to Americans in the 1940s, a thrilling debut novel of the burgeoning love affair between a young American intelligence agent obsessed with ancient China and a rebellious young Communist, set against the backdrop of China at the height of the civil war.. The Peking Letter is Seymour Toppings remarkable recreation of China on the eve of revolution. Torn by his infatuation for a saucy Chinese student with Communist sympathies, CIA agent Eric Jensen finds himself thrust into the epicenter of the Chinese Revolution. With the eye of a seasoned journalist, Topping shows us the details of a civilization in peril: the inside of upscale brothels and traditional pleasure houses, the corridors of military compounds, and the quiet inner chambers of Buddhist temples. The Peking Letter is Seymour Toppings remarkable recreation of China on the eve of revolution. Torn by his infatuation for a saucy Chinese student with Communist sympathies, a CIA agent, Eric Jensen, finds himself thrust into the epicenter of the Chinese Revolution.Topping takes the reader to the sites he covered as a young correspondent for the New York Times the streets of Nanking under siege, the trenches outside the sacked city of Peking. With the eye of a seasoned journalist, he shows us the details of a civilization in peril: the inside of upscale brothels and traditional pleasure houses, the corridors of military compounds, and the quiet inner chambers of Buddhist temples.Toppings panoramic picture of revolutionary China is both a love story, and a remarkable view of a society on the brink of social and cultural transformation.

Review:

In his author's note, Seymour Topping sets forth the purpose of The Peking Letter: "I offer this novel as an entertainment, yet I dare to hope that its historical perspectives may also help to make China more understandable." One's heart sinks. It's like being asked to eat tofu cheesecake--tastes good, and it's good for you, too! So it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that The Peking Letter is much more than instruction wrapped in potboiler garb. Set in Beijing during the Chinese Civil War, Topping's thriller brings that city vividly to life, down to the last details of food, dress, economics, and philosophy. Few novelists are more qualified to write about this era than Topping, who covered the war for the Associated Press. While most of his characters are imaginary, the ideological battles they engage in are not, and in illuminating the conflicting ideas that beset the city in the late 1940s, Topping does much to make China's current struggles with democracy and capitalism more ... well, understandable.

His hero is Eric Jensen, child of missionaries and passionate student of Taoism and Chinese art. Though he cares more for his studies--and for women and wine--than for politics, the CIA enlists his help in monitoring the city's growing unrest. Meanwhile, Jensen meets Lilian, a beautiful Chinese woman, and finds himself acting as a courier for the Communists, carrying crucial details of negotiations for the Nationalist surrender. Of course, no spy--not even a lusty, Taoist, red-haired foreign devil--can serve two masters, and Jensen finds himself pursued on all sides as he tries to save the woman he loves. Topping handles the twists and turns of this plot with consummate skill, and though he's no groundbreaking stylist, he writes a solid journalist's prose. His characters don't fare quite as well; both Jensen and Lilian come up somewhat short in the psychological-nuance department. But there is ample precedent for such simplicity within this genre, and The Peking Letter enjoys the advantage of its fundamental intelligence. Though the novel wears its historical credentials lightly, it is nonetheless the work of a man who understands China--and its pull on foreigners--better than many historians. --Mary Park

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