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Paper Butterfly by Diane Wei Liang
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Paper Butterfly (2008)

by Diane Wei Liang

Series: Mei Wang (2)

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‘’This land offered nothing but harsh wind and dry yellow earth. Under the dome of the sky, snow-peaked mountains stood like unwanted burdens of the past. This was the province where the Great Wall ended, where the Silk Road had passed through. Both had lain forgotten for the last thousand years.’’

Mei is a private investigator in Beijing. The problem is that this is illegal. The State does not allow private investigations and people like Mei have to hide behind terms and conditions and threats to work as freely as they can. Nine years have passed since the rising of the students and the Tiananmen massacre. A young up-and=coming singer has disappeared and Mei is asked to investigate. Meanwhile, a young man named Lin is trying to find his way back to the capital. Mei finds herself in a story of love, struggle and secrets, through the skyscrapers of Beijing to the beautiful, dark alleys of a country where freedom is a forbidden word.

‘’If we want to change the course of history with blood, we must be prepared to see it run in rivers. But bloodshed and death are not the way forward. There has already been too much of both.’’

This is not your average mystery. In fact, nothing in this book is ‘’average’’. Apart from the main plot, there are so many underlying themes and the setting is such that you will love reading and discussing this one. We all know the terrible events in 1989. I was very young at the time and yet I can vaguely recall the man standing his ground in front of the military forces. We have watched documentaries and read books. Here, Mei is a young woman who wanted to join the students but was afraid to do so. I won’t tell you much because the plot has links intricately connected to each other. The cries for change and progress, the insecurity of what is to follow, the hope of the youth. Lin, a very important character, gives a very realistic and objective description of the doubts, fears and dreams of the students and the chronicle leading to the massacre is harrowing. Betrayal and retribution go hand-in-hand but many times, the one who has fallen victim of a terrible injustice becomes worse than a murderer…

The writing is fascinating. Sharp and poetic, the dialogue is vivid and flowing. I walked in Beijing and recognized it with my mind’s eyes, seeing the bright lanterns, reflecting on the snow-covered streets, gray, white and red colours visible through the wintry mist. The writer excels in transporting us to the close-knit communities of the hutongs, the alleys, the daily struggle, the gangs.

Trust me. You don’t want to miss this one…

‘’The sky was tinted with the blue mist of early evening. A slender crescent moon rose above Silver Ingot Bridge.
Mei crossed the bridge and took a right turn into a wide alley where a man was flipping baked yams on a barrel stove. Further down, a woman was selling steamed buns. An old man rummaged through early editions in a small bookshop. The bell clanged in the Bell Tower.
A strange, sad sight greeted her at number nineteen. Two large white lanterns signifying a death in the household swayed above the entrance, like the wandering eyes of a ghost.’’

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jun 29, 2019 |
I have to say I enjoyed this book very much. It is a bit of a mystery -but I think what captured my interest was the glimpse into modern day Bejing. It was an easy read, and enjoyable. I have read both of the books that I could find by this author -and found her to be a new and interesting voice as far as life in modern day China goes. . ( )
  vancouverdeb | Oct 17, 2010 |
In Paper Butterfly, private investigator Mei Wang searches for the answers behind the disappearance of singing star Kaili. If you are looking for a good mystery, this isn't it. The plot lacks complexity, the dialogue is stilted, and the characters are not particularly memorable. However, if you want a glimpse of life in modern-day China, Liang succeeds in providing that. She does a good job of describing the lasting effects of the Tiananmen Square protests on the people of Beijing. ( )
1 vote mathgirl40 | Aug 26, 2009 |
Lots of historical detail about the student revolution; not much character development or actual mystery involved. You do learn a lot about life in present day China. ( )
  gsisson | May 26, 2009 |
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When Mei receives a call from the chief executive at Guanghua Record Company, she learns that one of Mr. Peng's top starlets--the beautiful pop star and troubled, mysterious Kaili--has been missing for four days. Mei must find the starlet while keeping up the record company's facade that nothing is amiss.

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