Skip to main content

Review: Peking Picnic, by Ann Bridge




Pages: 328
Original date of publication: 1932
My edition: 1989 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, November 2011

Peking Picnic is one of Virago’s lesser-known titles, by one of their lesser-known authors (and sadly, never reprinted; Ann Bridge’s novels are incredibly hard to find). Ann Bridge was the pseudonym of Mary Dolling Sanders. She later married a Foreign Office official, whose work took their family to China. The brief time they spent in China informed the plot of Ann Bridge’s first novel.

Peking Picnic is the story of Laura Leroy, wife to a British attaché in Peking. She is an active participant in Peking life, but misses her children, who are back in England at school. One day, she and a few acquaintances take a trip to a nearby temple. Laura plays fairy godmother, of sorts, to several of the young lovers on the trip, but finds herself intrigued by another member of the party.

Ann Bridge’s writing is lyrically poetic. Laura Leroy is a difficult character to get to know because she isn’t easily classifiable. She’s an idealist, but a realist at the same time. I loved the author’s descriptions of China, especially the difference between the Westerners and Chinese.

I can’t help but compare this novel with Emily Hahn’s memoir of China, which is as different as different can be; Peking Picnic was written when WWII was still a ways away, and there’s an idyllic quality to this novel that makes it quite beautiful to read. Emily Hahn’s memoir focuses on facts; Peking Picnic focuses on ideas. The plot isn’t the strongest point of the book, however; there’s a scene with bandits that I didn’t find so believable. But in all, I enjoyed this novel.

Comments

Karen K. said…
I bought the Capuchin Classic edition at Borders last year during the closeouts but still haven't read it. I've only read one other by Ann Bridge, Illyrian Spring, which I did like. I'd like to see what she has to say about China.
FABR Steph said…
What a shame that this classic was never reprinted. Not many people will be able to get there hand on a copy, and if they do, they will pay dearly, I am sure. Thank you for your review,

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

January:
1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

February:
1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

March:
1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…