Title: The Dancing Girl and the Turtle
Author: Karen Kao
Synopsis: Song Anyi is on her way to Shanghai when she is gang raped by a group of Chinese soldiers and left for dead. She finally manages to get to her Aunt and Uncle who along with their son Song Cho nurse her back to health. It is China in 1937 and the world is unlike anything. Between the scars of being sexually abused and the ghosts of her past that she sees, Anyi soon turns to prostitution with a newfound obsession with pain. This story weaves in and out of different perspectives and characters to form a story that is both beautiful and tragic.
Rating: 5/5 stars
I was surprised by how great this novel was. When Linen Press asked me to read and review this book for their blog tour I was hesitant, but I accepted the offer and I am glad I did. The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is a book unlike any other I have read before. There are lots of grown-up topics in it so this is definitely not a book for children. In fact, as a 20-year old, I had some issues with certain parts. It definitely does not gloss over anything. Everything from the prostitution Anyi finds herself in, to the opium dens, and the war that is on the horizon for Japan and China is all highlighted in an almost poetic prose. Still, this novel was one that was incredibly easy to read through and it also taught me a lot about Chinese culture that I did not know about. You will both sympathize with and even hate the characters, sometimes at the same time, but there is no doubt that Karen Kao has created characters that will stick with you long after you turn the final page. Song Anyi gives you a main character that you feel sorry for more than anything. She has a certain strength about her, but at the same time, she is so weak and tired that you can't help but want to reach through the pages and help her. This story does not gloss over the mental scars that sexual abuse causes Anyi, but instead gives the reader a look into her eyes and mind as she suffers hallucinations, sees the ghosts of her parents, and feels the need to feel pain so she can feel like a human again. The most heartbreaking part of the novel though has to be the fact that she wants to feel pain because she thinks she deserves it. This novel is truly a tragedy that shows you the very delicate fibers of life.
I hope that you enjoyed this book review!