by Julie HaleOctober, 2005
This revelatory look at the Korean War earned Jin his second PEN/Faulkner Award. Based on extensive historical research, the novel tells the story of a group of Chinese soldiers (or "war trash") who were imprisoned by U.N. forces. Yu Yuan is one such soldier, a clerical officer who speaks English and serves as the novel's narrator. Sent to an internment camp on an island in the Sea of Japan, Yu finds himself embroiled in a violent battle of ideologies a political clash within the camp waged by two groups of Chinese prisoners: the pro-Nationalists and the pro-Communists. Negotiating this tension-filled territory nearly costs Yu his life. Refusing to join the Nationalist side, he is branded (in more ways than one) a Communist and forced to suffer the consequences. Yu endures the deprivations of the camp, holding on to the hope that he will one day see his mother and his young fiancÅ½e, both of whom remain in China. His measured, understated account of the atrocities that occur creates a poignant narrative contrast, yet his voice is all the more believable for its reserve. This is a compelling, meticulously presented work of historical fiction that will resonate with readers. A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.readinggroupcenter.com.