Book Reviews

Book Review: “The Jade Peony” by Wayson Choy 


Published: 1995

Summary from Goodreads – Chinatown, Vancouver, in the late 1930s and ‘40s provides the setting for this poignant first novel, told through the vivid and intense reminiscences of the three younger children of an immigrant family. They each experience a very different childhood, depending on age and sex, as they encounter the complexities of birth and death, love and hate, kinship and otherness. Mingling with the realities of Canada and the horror of war are the magic, ghosts, paper uncles and family secrets of Poh-Poh, or Grandmother, who is the heart and pillar of the family. Wayson Choy’s Chinatown is a community of unforgettable individuals who are “neither this nor that,” neither entirely Canadian nor Chinese. But with each other’s help, they survive hardship and heartbreak with grit and humour.


I really have no complaints about this novel – it was written in my FAVOURITE form, different sections with a new narrator / perspective. I think this is a very good book to tell us how it was like, living in a racist Canada during World War II. How Chinese were viewed, as well as Chinese-Canadians. A lot of the content I had already been taught in school throughout the years, but I really didn’t mind sort of being “retaught” all of this stuff – I felt like I was getting a new perspective on things, which I think was the aim of Wayson Choy for this one. Even with this being published in 1995, I still think that this is an important Canadian novel to read, because it IS our history, and we are able to put ourselves into the shoes of those Asians who had to live in a country that mistrusted and misused them. 

Final Grade – 
I give this book a strong 8/10. I really did lke the style, and the plot line. But the narrators are all children – so we get a childlike representation of the events that went on. Which I really liked, and it was different, and very innovative. But I would personally rather have had the adult version. Maybe Wayson Choy should write a grown-u p version of this book, with the three kids as adults? You’re welcome, Mr.Choy.


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