I began listening to my grandmother properly — and with a tape-recorder — twenty years ago, when she was already in her late 70s (she died when she was about 97). I loved listening to her: her use of language was so musical, and apt, and vivid. She would have recognised Chaucer, I sometimes thought, her speech had a similar earthiness, a poetic, sophisticated seeming-simplicity that arose partly from character, partly from the rich and very old religious and social background in which everyone around her shared. And partly because she did not learn to read until she was in her 60s, and everything was from memory – stories and jokes and dreams told and retold, in an oral culture that prized the ability to do this in the most skilful way possible.
‘The longer I looked at that red chrysanthemum plate, the more I wanted to touch it, feel its weight, and run my fingers over its edge, which, like its country’s—and my family’s—history, was anything but smooth.’
It’s 1938, and the Japanese army are approaching from Nanking.
Huan Hsu’s great-great grandfather, Liu, and his five granddaughters, are preparing to flee their hometown on the banks of the Yangtze River.
Before they leave, they dig a hole and fill it to the brim with family heirlooms. Among their antique furniture, jade and scrolls, is Liu’s prized porcelain collection. The family’s flight across war-torn China would scatter them across the globe. Grandfather Liu’s treasure became family myth, from a time that no one wished to speak of – and no one ever returned to find it – until now.
Melding memoir, travelogue, ethnography, and social and political history, The Porcelain Thief is an intimate and personal way to understand the bloody, tragic and largely forgotten events that defined Chinese history in the 19th and 20th century.
Ambitious and talented, Kate Gross worked at Number 10 Downing Street for two British Prime Ministers whilst only in her twenties. At thirty, she was CEO of a charity working with fragile democracies in Africa. She had married ‘the best looking man I’ve ever kissed’ – and given birth to twin boys in 2008. The future was bright.
Diane Keaton’s career has spanned almost 50 years. She started off on stage where she was nominated for a Tony Award, before progressing onto the big screen with her 1970 film debut Lovers and Other Strangers and continues through to the present day. It includes a huge range of titles and genres from the epic crime films of The Godfather trilogy, comedy such as The First Wives Club and the cult classic, Annie Hall which first propelled her into the mainstream.