Book: Red Rose, White Rose

I used to be effectively bilingual. Emphasis placed on USED to be. Now, I am unfortunately no longer fluent in Mandarin. This explains why I read Red Rose, White Rose by Eileen Chang in English and not in Mandarin. Oh well, I blame that on spending 5 years in Australia and losing touch with my Chinese roots.


This is the book that has started me on Penguin Mini Modern Classics and because of that I am looking forward to reading the other 49 books in the series. I even created a page for these 50 books under Read! So yes, look forward to many more reviews. But first, more about this particular book. I had no idea who Eileen Chang was, until I Googled her. She wrote, Lust, Caution which was a very popular movie when it came out in 2007. It was based on her novel of the same name and I never watched it, but heard a good deal about it. Reading more about her life, made me realize that to some extent she was a woman ahead of her time.

As for the books itself, it details the love life of Zhenbao. His first love in London and then his mistress – the red rose, and his wife – the white rose. It’s talks about the contrast between the two roses and their impact on his life. At the same time it speaks a lot about Zhenbao and the expectations that he has for himself and that are placed on him. It’s almost like a social commentary the first few Chinese who had an education overseas but went back to China to work and live. It was interesting and insightful for such a short book. The only problem I had with it was that language. It didn’t flow, and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a translated work, or simply the author’s style. I’ll have to read the Chinese version to find out.

This strikes me as odd since I’ve read books that have been translated from Japanese as well as from German and I’ve never found problems in reading them. Have you ever read a translation and felt that something was off with the way the sentences were structured? I’m not sure it’s because I know Mandarin and thus am subconsciously translating the English back into Mandarin, but it just felt weird. I don’t know, what do you think?


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