||Jan 1 2001
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Horror, Passion, Fantasy, Mysticism and the Occult
When her father dies, Rafaella Bardini at age 18 finds herself taking charge of resettling in Italy with her mother, Mai-yeen, who has bound feet and no Italian. Learning and surviving engage all of Rafaella's wit.
The Good Old Days in China are over by the time Rafaella Bardini turns eight. Exiled by the Communist government, the Bardinis arrive in Italy with one suitcase each and $150. Her adventure began on the ship transporting them; deserting French Foreign Legionnaires attack her; she meets Stefano, Eurasian like herself, with whom she falls in love; and a brother and sister, German nationals, who also are repatriating to a country they have never seen. What happens to them all is a story that is absorbing and astonishing.
"Jasmine tea," said Stefano. "I had forgotten how good it is." He had gotten a haircut, Rafaella noticed. And all three buttons of his tweed jacket were buttoned. At once Mai-yeen said, "Rafaella, please bring the box. I wish Stefano to take it home." They sat at the small, scarred table in the second room. The tea had been served in cups borrowed from Signora Scarpino. "Oh, no. I cannot do that," he protested. "You must keep it for yourselves." Rafaella wondered if Stefano realized how quickly he had become Chinese again.
A richly written story that focuses on Rafaella Bardini and Stefano Chang, both with Chinese mothers and non-Chinese fathers, and Rafaella's mother May-yeen ...also a cast of wonderfully well-drawn secondary characters. Bellucci manages to evoke the essence...Shanghai, Catania, Rome, Hong Kong...aromas of food, incense, splash of color here, a gust of wind there...enormously compelling novel. Highly recommended.--Charlotte Vale Allen, author of Grace Notes
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