But these various streams of plot meander along somewhat aimlessly, not gaining a lot of momentum. The connections between the characters are not always very deep or convincing; Peach's strange affair with a "peasant" boy actually the owner of a small business leads to some of the least erotic sex scenes ever written. But there are wonderful touches of subtle humor, as when Old Zhu, a compulsive gardener, fusses over a potted plant: "The next day [he] returned with a chrysanthemum plant, put it next to the terracotta pot, as if he were arranging a marriage.
The flower nodded and the deal was done. Even more effective are passages describing the horrors endured by Da Shan's parents. This trauma echoes into the next generation with Da Shan's memories of his boyhood, separated from his parents for years:. The Drink and Dream Teahouse is at its best when recounting the cost of political oppression in individual human lives.
The Drink and Dream Teahouse : Justin Hill :
Yet this very oppressiveness leads to a narrowness of scope, almost an inertia, with the characters' lives spent moving in tight little circles of ritual. There is a near-obsession with food preparation and a preoccupation with prostitution one character remarks about Liu Bei, "If she didn't have a hole between her legs she'd be penniless" , as if momentary pleasure can make up for the loss of individual fulfillment.
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A certain resignation permeates the book, making for a slightly suffocating read. Though the novel has some sensitive and beautiful writing, ultimately it feels as hobbled as the bound feet of the old women Hill so often portrays. July Margaret Gunning has reviewed many books but never gets tired of the grand adventure of reading. She has written a novel A Singing Tree and a book of poems Nonsongs and Neopsalms , and is currently at work on her second novel, Better than Life.
No sooner has he died than the professional mourners move in: A squad of old women came hobbling up from nowhere and sat down in the middle of the marquee. They had half a mouthful of teeth between them, and white rags wrapped around their heads. With loves, lives and losses brought into utter clarity, the characters in Justin Hill's novel live in the half-light between remembered doctrines and the newly-discovered pursuit of wealth and fulfilment.
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Touching, funny, and utterly memorable, The Drink and Dream Teahouse maps out the contours of human drama in a work which seduces with its laughter even while it devastates with its tragedy and sorrow. Born in , he worked with VSO and lived in China for many years. Rating details.
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THE DRINK AND DREAM TEAHOUSE
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