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Passing Under Heaven

by Justin Hill

I found it hard to relate to the characters in this 9th century Chinese love story. Lily is a tragic heroine from the outset yet I found it difficult to care as we follow her downward path from orphan to concubine to celebrated courtesan to prisoner. Maybe the setting was just too distant for me to empathise. However, it is always interesting to visit the temples, pavilions, lakes and snow-capped mountains of such a different time and place. I would like to have heard more about the lives of the ordinary charcters as so many of them were memorable and unusual. Granny Pig is a fine comic creation.

Extract

After Minister Li had left, Lily lay down, but instead of sleep she felt a terrible fear, as if she teetered on the edge of a vast chasm. No tears left, she told herself, as she lay on her back and stared into the darkness, remembered an image of twirling red dragons, sucking each other down.

'Lily!Lily?' Minister Li's voice shouted over the wall. 'I have a sedan here!'
But his voice seemed to come from very far away and long ago. He wants to cage you again, the voice in her head said. Do not open the door. Do not let him cage you. Do not, do not, do not. She could not bring herself to open the door. The good memories were enough, she told herself, as if only so much happiness was apportioned to each man's lifetime.

'I want to take you home!' For a moment Minister Li's voice was clear and sharp.
Lily's lower lip trembled.
Do not, the voice reminded her.

Parallels

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
Farewell my Concubine - the film
 

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