Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 352 pages
First Published: 2023
In Paris near the end of the First World War, Pauline Deng discovers that her uncle is arranging a marriage for her back in Shanghai. For help, she searches for her cousin Theo, a translator for the Chinese Labor Corps near the front. In the French countryside, Pauline finds shelter with Camille, a French woman entangled in a love affair and planning to escape her abusive marriage. When Pauline and Camille’s paths cross, they must make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives.
The Porcelain Moon is worth a read just for its informative look at the contribution of the Chinese Labor Corps during World War 1, a lesser-known historical event. However, the storytelling itself fell flat with a predictable plot and one-dimensional characters. The disjointed timeline didn’t help either, feeling more stilted than seamless. While I appreciated the deeper themes of identity and misogyny, the narrative stayed surface-level, never provoking an emotional response.
France, 1918. In the final days of the First World War, a young Chinese woman, Pauline Deng, runs away from her uncle’s home in Paris to evade a marriage being arranged for her in Shanghai. To prevent the union, she needs the help of her cousin Theo, who is working as a translator for the Chinese Labour Corps in the French countryside. In the town of Noyelles-sur-Mer, Camille Roussel is planning her escape from an abusive marriage, and to end a love affair that can no longer continue. When Camille offers Pauline a room for her stay, the two women become friends. But it’s not long before Pauline uncovers a perilous secret that Camille has been hiding from her. As their dangerous situation escalates, the two women are forced to make a terrible decision that will bind them together for the rest of their lives.
Set against the little-known history of the 140,000 Chinese workers brought to Europe as non-combatant labor during WWI, The Porcelain Moon is a tale of forbidden love, identity and belonging, and what we are willing to risk for freedom.
About Janie Chang
Janie Chang is an author whose works include Three Souls, Dragon Springs Road, The Porcelain Moon, and The Library of Legends. She is also the co-author of The Phoenix Crown, with Kate Quinn. Born in Taiwan, Chang has lived in many countries around the world. Currently, she lives in Vancouver, Canada. Visit the author’s website →