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Korea Revolution Travel

Gwangju Spring

Our hotel is mere steps away from Geumnam-ro, the main thoroughfare in Gwangju, South Korea. We’re in this city because of a novel written by Han Kang. Human Acts documents 9 days in May 1980 when a student-led democracy movement was brutally suppressed by the military junta then in power. 7 years later, in 1987, […]

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Revolution Travel Vietnam War

The Last Emperor

Today is our last day in Vietnam. We started in the south in Saigon, traveled through central Vietnam, to end our 1 month stay in the capital of Hanoi. A month is hardly long enough to grasp the history of any country, let alone one with such a long and tortured past. I struggle to […]

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China Politics Revolution

Cultural Revolution 2.0

This month marks an ominous anniversary. On 16 May 1966, Mao Zedong unleashed the Cultural Revolution. For 10 long years, China was consumed by a political and social chaos, the complexity and brutality of which continues to astound historians today. How could such a thing happen? The entire country was caught by surprise. At the […]

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China Revolution Shanghai

Propaganda

The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a tourist attraction. TimeOut calls it one of Shanghai’s best museums and a “must-see”. This is the description from my dog-eared 2008 guide: a stunning collection of original posters from 1949 to 1979 [with] images of ruddy-cheeked Chinese peasants crushing imperialist Uncle Sam underfoot. The museum sits in […]

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Craft Family ghosts Revolution Shanghai

Socialism Is Great!

When I started work on my novel Peace Court, I looked for sources to feed my imagination. I found plenty of history books but almost no fiction that dwelt on Shanghai in the early 1950s. Certainly none that originated from inside China. I wondered why that was the case. This is what I learned. revolutionary […]

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Craft poetry Revolution The Shanghai Quartet

Laogai

Laogai will be the third volume of The Shanghai Quartet and its star will be Song Kang. We first see Kang in The Dancing Girl and the Turtle as the returned student, the prodigal son, called back from America to care for his ailing sister Anyi. Eighteen years later, we meet him again. He’s in […]

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Revolution The Shanghai Quartet

Peace Court

Peace Court is the novel I’m working on now. I’m hoping this will be the next volume to appear in The Shanghai Quartet. If you’ve read The Dancing Girl and the Turtle, you may find it hard to believe that my next novel is a comedy. It’s not as if I have no sense of […]

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Books Politics Revolution War

The Art of War

Sun Tzu is the name given to the author of the military treatise The Art of War. No one knows when the book was written or whether Sun Tzu is its true author. The name in the book is Sun Wu. He was a general and military advisor active during the Spring and Autumn period […]

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Craft Family ghosts Revolution Shanghai

McTyeire School for Girls

The tricky thing about writing historical fiction is getting the details right. Were there ballpoint pens in Shanghai in 1937? (Yes.) Or plastic chopsticks in 1954? (No.) The average reader might not care but mine would. They already know something about China or they want to delve deeper. My readers want a story that feels […]