Jun 17, 2010

Book Review: The Time of the Dragons by Alice Ekert-Rotholz

The Time of the Dragons

The Time Of The Dragons by Alice Ekert-Rotholz, translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston, historical fiction

The copy that I found in our circulating library at work is printed in 1958 by The Viking Press, a hardcover book of 468 pages. The novel is set in Shanghai, Norway, Bangkok, and Japan between 1925 and 1955.

Knut Wergeland, Norwegian consul to Shanghai in 1925, leaves for home in Norway before a new posting in Bangkok. He is returning home with his two daughters - Astrid, whose French mother has just died, and Mailin, his daughter by a Chinese woman who is deathly ill and so decided to give the child up.

Really interesting novel about the consul in Shanghai and his daughters who go back and forth to China before and during the Japanese occupation in the mid-1930s. Interesting also that the author warns about Asians in the future, especially "Japanese, Chinese, and Indians" and their future influence in the world. (This was written in 1958) . Her book goes into the Japanese role in WWII, but Germany is mentioned only briefly. She says nothing at all about the German quest for world power during the same war. Interesting omission, since this was written only 13 or so years after WWII, and by a German author who would have had fresh memories of the war in Europe.

I was ready to put the book down as a piece of propaganda but continued as the characters and their lives were such an interesting story.

Most of the book follows Knut's daughters - Astrid, Mailin, and Vivica, their lives and loves during wartime and after.  The most interesting of the daughters, the headstrong but vulnerable Vivica, is mistaken for a Chinese spy and is captured and interrogated in Shanghai by a Japanese officer, a former baron. The last part of the novel deals mostly with the love-hate relationship that develops and which continues in the mid-1950s when Vivica and the baron meet again by chance in Tokyo.

The author seems to be explaining the differences between East and West, saying the Americans misunderstood the Japanese and their culture in many different ways during their occupation of Japan after the surrender. A unique point of view by a German writer of both the victorious Americans and the defeated Japanese in post war Japan.

I love old books and old historical fiction and what they can tell us.

Challenge: 100 + Reading Challenge,

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  1. You have some great books-I have been wanting to read Kitchen Chinese.

  2. Sounds fascinating. Thanks for the introduction, not just to the author and book, but to the idea of reading books in translation, which I don't do often enough.


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