Review: The Yellow Papers
In its uncompromising examination of the impact of historical events on individual lives, this first novel is an engrossing, emotionally charged tale of friendship, love, prejudice, betrayal and tragedy.
The Yellow Papers spans nine decades leading to China’s Cultural Revolution as it explores the experiences of enigmatic Chen Mu and his friend Edward; and Ming Li, the married woman whom Edward adores.
In 1872, seven-year-old Chen Mu is sent to America with other poor Chinese boys to learn the secrets of the West. Forced to flee nine years later, Chen Mu arrives in a burgeoning mining town in Australia and, later, at a sprawling outback station.
Review: The Yellow Papers
The first full-length novel from short story writer Dominique Wilson is a sorrowful but captivating historical epic, and a unique view of the formation of modern China. Spanning nine decades, The Yellow Papers charts the destinies of three main characters: a lowly Chinese peasant who flees to Australia following an unsuccessful mission to obtain ‘the secrets of the West’ in the US; a wealthy Australian man obsessed with his oriental lover; and a child of China’s Cultural Revolution. Wilson’s impeccable research helps her to convey a realistic impression of some of the significant political, intellectual and social changes in China’s development, and the impact this evolution has had on Western culture, particularly Australia. While this attention to historical detail adds authenticity to the narrative, it is Wilson’s well-crafted characters and shrewd storytelling that arouse all the emotions that great tragedy is supposed to evoke. To compare The Yellow Papers to the historical sagas of the kind that consistently rise to the tops of bestseller lists may seem to trivialise the importance of its subject matter, but the book will still satisfy a readership hungry for a gripping, grandiose read.
Tuesday Morning Book Club – ABC North Queensland
04 March 2014: 9.57 AM
Presenter Michael Clarke and reviewer Sue Cole discuss The Yellow Papers:
The Yellow Papers by Dominique Wilson – Review
March 3, 2014
… What separates The Yellow Papers from the usual historical saga is partly the way Wilson redefines ‘family’ to include Chen Mu, and partly the way she respects the reader’s intelligence and leaves some gaps in the 90-year chronology that can be inferred without needing to labour the point. Read full review here: ANZ LitLovers
The Yellow Papers
Written by Janet Mawdesley
8 May 2014
Beautifully written from the first paragraph, the story of Chen Mu unfolds with all the delicacy of fine Chinese scroll work, designed to intrigue and enhance.
Starting in China in 1872 we meet Chen Mu at the tender age of 6 years old; resentful, cold, hungry and realising things are not all that well in his world.
He is chosen to leave his village to attend school and eventually travel on to America, but can’t understand why his mother would do this to him. He goes on to become a good student, finding his feet in America and developing a love of Botany, which would eventually lead him, in the most unexpected and dangerous manner, to travelling on to Australia. Read More
lip lit: the yellow papers
21 April 2014
Traditionally when a person dies in China, yellow or gold joss papers are burned to ensure the deceased’s safe passage into the nether world. Thirteen-year-old Chen Mu is studying in America when his mother dies in 1875, and cannot return home to perform the rite. Instead, he swaps his mourning clothes for American suits and turns his back on his homeland for good.
Dominique Wilson’s debut novel, The Yellow Papers, is a hundred-year narrative of displacement, cultural upheaval and political change, but also a story of the unlikely friendships and love that persist, even in such an unstable climate.
At seventeen, Chen Mu is bullied into committing a terrible crime because of his race and flees America aboard a ship bound for Sydney. He finds work in gold rush Australia as a gardener at a wealthy country estate, where he strikes up a friendship with the owner’s grandson, Edward. Read More
Review: The Yellow Papers by Dominique Wilson
6 April 2014
The Yellow Papers is one of those books that forces the reader to look at concepts, such as cultures, philosophies and relationships, from different perspectives, leaving the reader the richer for it. In particular, it examines the challenges of being a Chinese immigrant in Australia, an aspect later contrasted with the challenges a white Australian experiences in Asia, both during and post-war. Read More
Goodreads Readers’ Reviews
Bob Dawson – 25 March 2014:
This is a ripping tale! It tells the story of four main characters that are linked by the history of China and Australia from late 19th century up to the 1960s, and how their lives are affected by the various events and wars of that time. It’s really well written, a real page turner, and pretty confronting at times, but it also makes you think. It’s the sort of book that you keep thinking about, long after you’ve finished it. A great good read!
Tina – 10 March 2014:
How does an author capture the essence of all that war encapsulates? The anger, hatred, cruelty, politics,poverty, wastefulness….Ms. Wilson does all of this vividly by recounting the story of three families that have become intertwined. By chronicling the experiences of the diverse and multi-faceted characters, the reader feels the effects of war, poverty and racism.
It begins with Chen Mu, a poor boy living in China. His mom is dying and sends him away to be schooled in Connecticut. He is like a fish out of water and is in awe of the wonder of education yet experiences blatant racism. A major event will change his path forever. He eventually finds a place to call home and this is where he leaves his mark in life. The special gift that was given to him by his teacher plays a major role in the book. It is a beautiful symbol of love and potential. Read More
Jessica Bryan – 1 March 2014:
I hadn’t heard of this writer, but bought the book yesterday because it seemed interesting. I started reading that afternoon and finished it today – I loved it! I even nearly cried at the end, and I’m not one to cry. A really interesting saga. #MustRead #China #histfic #histnovel