Monday, June 16, 2014

Leaving China (2014)

Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. James McMullan. 2014. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 113 pages. [Source: Library]

I liked reading Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood by James McMullan. I liked the format of it especially. Each chapter consists of two pages: one page of text and an accompanying illustration or painting. Because of the format, the style, it isn't your traditional memoir.

I found this one very interesting. James McMullan was born in China in 1934, his parents were in business, his grandparents were missionaries. By providing some background and family history, readers catch a glimpse of China BEFORE the war, before they were invaded by the Japanese, before the conflict became a world war. And, of course, his narrative goes through the war itself. James and his parents managed to go to Shanghai. His father joined the British army. James and his mother traveled to the U.S. and then Canada where they remained for several years. Eventually both would end up back in Asia--first India and then Shanghai.

Each chapter is a memory. I liked how this collection of memories tells a larger story. I like how it is specific and yet universal. These memories focus on his growing up years, his growing pains. Readers see his struggle to find himself, to accept himself. Let's just say that his mother was very opinionated about what kind of person her son should be, and, he didn't live up to her expectations. The book tells in a way his journey to finding the real him.
Throwing A Grape
My earliest memory is of throwing a grape. I was a two-year old playing on the stucco porch of a neighbor's house early one morning. I picked up a grape from a fruit bowl on the breakfast table and threw it for their German shepherd dog to chase. The grape bounced back off the wall and landed near me. The dog and I got to the grape at the same time, but I managed to close my chubby fingers around it just as the dog's jaws were about to claim the prize. The frustrated animal turned on me and bit me on the arm and on the back of the head. I remember in a dreamlike way the shouts and confusion of the adults when they called my parents and drove me to the hospital. It took fourteen stitches to close the gash on my head and six more for the wound on my arm. I don't remember the hospital or the pain, just the grape, the dog, and the chaos. A little patch of hair never grew back on my head.
Looking back, I wonder if the dog attack had anything to do with the nervousness I exhibited during my childhood or whether I was simply destined to be a worried, anxious boy, German shepherd bites or not. I do know that my physical timidity in those early years was a concern to my father and mother and a great disappointment. This story of my peripatetic life during the Second World War, and of my family's beginnings in China, is also a story of that nervous boy gradually finding his strength in art and a way to be in the world that was not his father's or mother's idea of a man's life. (4)

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 comments:

SarahElisabeth Jones 3:58 PM  

This sounds fascinating. Would you say that it is suitable for children and if so for what ages? I'm putting together some Second World War resources to use with my children.

Becky 4:19 PM  

I'd say maybe sixth grade and up. I'd also recommend The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson.

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

Pageloads Counter

Search Book Blogs Search Engine

The background is based on a background I found here...with some small adjustments on my part so it would work with the template.
Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP