by Janie Chang
Dragon Springs Road by B.C. author Janie Chang combines historical fiction and fantasy to present a coming of age story for a Eurasian girl named Jialing. Jialing is abandoned by her mother and taken on as a bond slave by the Yang family. She develops a friendship of sorts with the family’s daughter Anjuin. The story follows Jialing as she grows up and also chronicles the history of China, and in particular Shanghai from 1908-1919. As an ancient imperial dynasty collapses, a new government struggles to life and Jialing and Anjuin are bound together in friendship that will be tested by duty, honour, and love.
Dragon Springs Road is beautifully written and Jialing’s narration always feels honest. Jialing’s struggles and experiences as a Eurasian childare powerful; it’s painful growing up in a world where everyone looks down on a mixed race child. I really enjoyed the magical realism woven throughout the book in the form of Fox spirit, and the gates. Fox keeps Jialing safe and shows her what is possible in the world. This enthralling story includes gangsters, racism, corruption and more.
The story telling flows in a lovely way, keeping you turning the pages. Dragon Springs Road is a testament to the strength of women shunned by society, who have their destiny tangled up with those who control them. It invites us to re-examine our relationship to place, identity and ancestry. It was both a pleasure and an education to read this sensitive, intelligent novel of our times.
Note: There is some sexual content in the novel.
For read-alikes try Snow Flower and Secret Fan.