‘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.
As the 4th Estate website rounds off its ‘Family Reunion’ theme, we turn to much-loved Guardian columnist Tim Dowling’s wonderful How to Be a Husband, and consider the benefits of matrimony. Tim is a husband of some twenty years, and his marriage is resounding proof that even the most impossible partnership can work out for the best. Some of the time.
So while his book is called How to Be a Husband, it’s not really a how-to guide at all. Nor is it a compendium of petty remarks and brinkmanship – although it contains plenty of both. You may pick up a few DIY hints. You might learn that while marriage is founded on love, it endures through bloody hard work. Most likely it will make you whimper with the laughter of painful recognition. Read more…
How did we get to be like this? No previous generation has enjoyed the luxuries we take for granted today. But peace has made us complacent, freedom has made us irresponsible, affluence has made us acquisitive, comfort has made us neglectful of others, and security has made us tremulously insecure.
Unable to defer our gratification even for a moment, we want everything, and we want it right now – regardless of whether we can afford it or not. Our homes are viewed not as places to live in, but as ‘assets’ to generate money. Our collective civic decency has been replaced by a persistent, resentful sense of victimhood. Sedated by a dumbed-down popular culture, we are bullied by a tiny, unrepresentative elite of privileged metropolitan bien pensants, and afflicted by imaginary illnesses (Morgellons, anyone?).
In this chapter from Selfish, Whining Monkeys, Rod Liddle delves into his own family structure and his childhood experience.
There are six different vegetables hidden in between the baps of these burgers. They need about 20 minutes in the fridge before cooking so why not make a double batch, wrap half in clingfilm and freeze for another time and thank yourself in advance. Read more…
Today sees the publication day of A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell, a novel so stylishly written that Harper’s Bazaar professed ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola are slugging it out for the film rights already.’ We took the chance to sit down with the cover designer Jo Walker and ask her exactly what in the novel inspired her to create a cover that somehow encompasses the themes and the style of the book so perfectly.
‘Write Here’ takes us into our authors’ writing spaces across the globe, where they tell us about how they go about their craft. We mark each location on the map at the bottom of each post. Today’s edition takes us to Wisconsin, USA, where Judith Claire Mitchell wanders from writing spot to writing spot between the town and city of Madison…
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.
It is a rare thing to be able to watch literary history unfold before your eyes. We can only wonder what it would have been like, with the benefit of hindsight, to be present for the worlds reaction to writers such as Charlotte Bronte and James Joyce, to see them being ignored or even damned. There are certain moments in literature that, without exaggeration, define the future of the medium as a whole, and Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 publication of The Corrections exists as a catalyst for such a moment. Read more…