It’s cooled off significantly over the past few days, and with more seasonal temperatures, the weather’s been positively delightful. I’ve been out for a long walk already, my new routine to avoid the worst of the UV rays during mid-day, so I feel I've really earned my tea and treat. I've got a big mug of very strong Pu-Erh Exotic tea and an especially yummy Date Bar to look forward to, and I know it’s going to be a great day!
I read an interesting book last week, Red Oblivion by Canadian author Leslie Shimotakahara. Set in modern-day Hong Kong, this book explores one woman’s attempt to uncover distressing family secrets, despite her father's efforts to keep them hidden. Jill and Celeste, both living in the Toronto area, return home to Hong Kong to care for their ninety-four year-old father (Ba) who has recently fallen ill and is in hospital. Celeste, who harbours no feelings of nostalgia for her childhood, wants nothing to do with any of this, and can’t wait to get home to her husband and her life. Jill, on the other hand, is still blinkered to what her sister thinks of as their real past and does her best to keep alive her own version of a childhood in which her father was not neglectful, but, while not doting, was actually there for her, at least some of the time. What Jill discovers as she tends to her father’s business demands while he is incapacitated, however, makes her reconsider all the stories her Ba told her over the years about his struggles to save his family during the Cultural Revolution and his efforts to make money and build a business out of nothing. Who’s been mailing her Ba these strange items, and what do they mean? Where did the money to start this business come from? And who had to suffer for her Ba to get it? I was hesitant to read this book because I know nothing about Mao and the Socialist Education Movement, China’s Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards, but Shimotakahara did a good job of explaining things in a very basic way that made it easy for this reader to understand and follow. This book was as much about the relationship between a daughter and her father as it was about the fairly recent violent history of China, and one woman’s attempt to do the right thing. The parallels to King Lear were none too subtle, with the dreams and the visions and the favourite daughter who loves her father best, but these actually helped to give a different context to the story, one that had nothing to do with the potentially violent means by which Jill’s father accrued his wealth, and the nasty historical events he somehow managed to survive. I felt like I learned something about Chinese history, and the details of Jill’s experiences living in Hong Kong were vivid and interesting. The story dragged at times, but overall it was a good book about an unpleasant subject, and Jill’s efforts to undo the wrongs of the past, if only on a small scale, are very timely indeed.
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the rest of the weekend!
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