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Adam Williams
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The Dragons Tail
hardback
545 pages
Taking us from the rise of communism to the clash of ideologies in Tiananmen Square, The Dragon's Tail is an epic sprawl. It's 1940 and Harry Airton, son of a Scottish expat, and Chen Tao, son of Harry's cook, enter into a boyhood blood-brother pact. Little thinking that their destinies will thenceforth be inextricably linked. With the onset of war, Harry is sent home and, years later, is enlisted by a suave secret service official, who sees him as the ideal candidate to infiltrate Chinese intelligence. Once in Beijing, Harry is introduced, via Chen Tao, to Peng Ziwei. Against their better judgment (the circumstances are unpropitious) the two fall in love, but disaster ensues. Harry is exiled from China in disgrace while Peng Ziwei is sent to a prison camp. Meticulously recreating the past, Williams's exploration of the effect of the cultural revolution on the Chinese psyche is gripping stuff. While the love story might be a touch stilted, this is nonetheless a compelling account of a people's ability to survive in the face of adversity.
8/10
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