Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang

I’ll start off by saying that I loved this book—it’s definitely one of the best I’ve read all year. Readers will devour each of these six short stories as if they were their last meal. Chang, said to have transformed Chinese literature in the 30s and 40s, writes about men, women, and the ways even the smallest actions or words can transform relationships. The cultural divide in Chinese society between ancient patriarchy and the tumultuous modernity forms the vivid background. The stories seem to be about how life never works out. They’re bleak and yet you can’t help but be enchanted by the characters. One of my favorite paragraphs from the title story:

Not until the ship had finally reached the shore did she have a chance to go up on deck and gaze out at the sea. It was a fiery afternoon, and the most striking part of the view was the parade of giant billboards along the dock, their reds, oranges, and pinks mirrored in the lush green water. Below the surface of the water, bars and blots of clashing color plunged in the murderous confusion. Liusu found herself thinking that even just spraining an ankle would be more painful here, in this city of hyperboles, than elsewhere. Her heart began to pound.