“When the assumption you begin with is false, everything generated from that must be false.”
Growing up in a small, riverside town, Little Bright is thrusted into the political whirlwinds along with his family during China’s Cultural Revolution. When a reversal of the winds of reform blows through the land, however, he learns the once-forbidden tongue―English―which lends wings to his sense and sensibility. At college, he adopts a new English name, Victor. With the deepening of his knowledge of the English language, he begins to place himself under the tutelage of Pavlov, Sherlock Holmes, and Shakespeare.
When the story unravels, however, Victor’s un-Chinese passion and tension threaten to topple his moral world and mental universe. Now, he must wade into an uncharted journey to unlock the dilemma and to unearth his destiny.
Drawing on his own life experiences, George Lee has fashioned an unforgettable coming-of-age story about fate and faith, good and evil, power of imagination and storytelling, and, above all, wonder of English literature.
I’m not sure how to describe this narrative, part memoir, part poignant journey of a Chinese male born in a little riverside town and indoctrinated heavily as a child with anti-western sentiment. As a child, Little Bright is filled with the ideas, history, and culture of thousands of years that teach everything is first about the country (not self) and the ideals fostered by propaganda through education and family traditions. Indeed, there were strong repercussions for viewing any angle of a subject that wasn’t sanctioned.
So the shock felt by the author during China’s Cultural Revolution is extreme. Now encouraged to learn the once forbidden English language—the better to infiltrate and turn into intelligence—the more valuable the student.
Secretly, however, the author had been questioning a lot of life’s mysteries and coming across Sherlock Holmes devoured everything about the way of life and heretofore conclusions. And that only opened additional doors to many more questions the author began to wrestle with.
Deep into philosophical and political questions, the author transitions from the equivalent of grammar school and high school to a university where he goes from being Little Bright to Victor and experiences all the new found independence of a college student. More and deeper questions. And English? There was another whole exquisite literary world out there to explore.
I enjoyed many of the sayings and stories, though there were also many passages that required rereading to understand sufficient to digest. Too many quotables to list. I also enjoyed the little explanations in…Hanzi(?). Interesting to see those translations.
I felt at times that I was rereading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Much the same struggle of making sense of oneself with similar conclusions.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.
Rosepoint Rating: Four Stars
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Guernica Editions
- ISBN-10: 177183756X
- ISBN-13: 978-1771837569
Print Length: 288 pages
Publication Date: November 1, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
The Author: George Lee was born and raised in China. He earned an M.A. in English literature from University of Calgary, and a Juris Doctor degree from University of Victoria. His first novel, Dancing in the River, won the 2021 Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction. He practices law in Vancouver, Canada.
©2022 V Williams