Beautifully written from the first paragraph, the story of Chen Mu unfolds with all the delicacy of fine Chinese scroll work, designed to intrigue and enhance.
Starting in China in 1872 we meet Chen Mu at the tender age of 6 years old; resentful, cold, hungry and realising things are not all that well in his world.
He is chosen to leave his village to attend school and eventually travel on to America, but can’t understand why his mother would do this to him. He goes on to become an good student, finding his feet in America and developing a love of Botany, which would eventually lead him, in the most unexpected and dangerous manner, to travelling on to Australia.
He finally settles in Australia befriending the lonely Edward, the six year old grandson of Matthew Dawson’s daughter, and owner of the station property where Chen Mu works and lives, when Edward and his mother leave Sydney during the bubonic plague years.
The unlikely pair builds a friendship that stands the test of tragedy and time, surviving two wars and the troubles that follow.
Edward builds a career based on the knowledge gained as a child and student of Chen Mu, which eventually sees him based in Shanghai in the years before the Mao uprising; before the beginning of the Second World War and the Japanese invasion, the years of greed, decadence and mystery.
Here he meets and falls desperately in love with a Chinese businessman’s young and beautiful wife; a love that is to survive the worst horrors of world undergoing change and rebuilding.
The story twists and winds across the pages of history bringing them alive again as Chen Mu, Edward, Ming Li and their families struggle to adapt to the changes bought about through war and depravation.
The story is created around the basic emotions of hope, trust, love, hate and betrayal which are woven through the pages seamlessly, making a rich story richer for the telling.
Each chapter unfolds bringing with it a small segment of the whole, that once started is compelling and difficult to put down. It is beautiful, insightful, rich, thought provoking and unforgettable.
For those who have not lived through any part of this history bought alive again, enjoy the journey, the peek back to a time and place that exists no longer, through the eyes of those who lived, loved and lost.