Cover image for The red thread : a love story
The red thread : a love story
Jose, Nicholas, 1952-
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Publication Information:
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
254 pages ; 22 cm
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A seductive literary love story set in contemporary Shanghai, The Red Thread intertwines the lives of two pairs of lovers across the centuries. Shen, a young, American-educated appraiser in a Shanghai auction house, is captivated by Ruth, a self-possessed Australian artist who happens into one of his auctions. As they fall in love, Shen finds that their lives are strangely mirrored by those of the characters in a rare Chinese manuscript that is nearly two hundred years old, and of which the last two chapters have never been found. Shen's search for the final chapters goes from one of curiosity to one of desperation when he realizes that the future of their relationship, and the prognosis for Ruth's failing health, seem to be foretold in the missing pages. Interwoven in the novel and presented in red type are passages from the actual nineteenth century memoir Six Chapters of a Floating Life that illuminate the lovers' parallel lives. An elegant and multilayered novel, drawing comparisons with Memoirs of a Geisha and The English Patient, The Red Thread is evocative, moving, and unforgettable.

Author Notes

Nicholas Jose is the author of The Custodians, The Rose Crossing, The Avenue of Eternal Peace, and two other novels, and is the translator of several works of Chinese literature. Born in London, he lived for many years in China and now resides in Sydney, Australia.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The cosmopolitan Jose was born in London, raised in Australia (his parents' home), and spent the late `80s in China, first as a teacher, then as Australian cultural attache. Here, he writes a love story of contemporary China that celebrates Shen Fu's classic nineteenth-century love story, Six Chapters of a Floating Life. Shen Fu and his beloved wife, Yun, are the protagonists of the classic story; excerpts of that four-chapter document are printed in red here. In modern China, Shen Fuling is an American-educated art expert, working for an auction house in rapidly modernizing Shanghai. About the time he begins reading Six Chapters, he meets and falls in love with Ruth, a frail Australian artist. Their story seems to echo that of the earlier Shen and his wife, and when Ruth becomes ill--as Yun did in the story--Shen obsessively seeks chapters five and six, missing from the document since it was first published. An involving novel animated by Buddhism's "red thread of passion," which connects individuals to each other and to the world. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

A mysterious but classic work of Chinese literature exerts an influence on an unusual love triangle in this beguiling new novel by Australian writer Jose (The Rose Crossing). In Jose's stylish romance, modern-day Shanghai is a forward-looking economic empire, yet still a city consumed by its pastÄghosts haunt temples and lakes, hotels are built on graveyards and the specter of Red China is ubiquitous. These contrasts are personified by Shen Fuling, a young art dealer who along with Australian artist Ruth Garrett and "half glamour queen, half street kid" Han share names with characters in a real memoir entitled Six Chapters of a Floating Life, written by Chinese writer Shen Fu in 1808. Just after Shen receives a first edition of the opening four chapters of the work for auction, he meets Ruth and becomes convinced that he and his soon-to-be lover are reincarnated versions of its protagonists, Shen and Yun. When Han encounters the couple at a nightclub, the connection she feels to Ruth is as strong as Shen's, and the three play out a life that somehow has been lived before. But the incomplete manuscript of Floating Life ends with Yun's death, and Shen's discovery that Ruth has cancer prompts a search for the missing chapters and an alternative ending to the tragic story. Jose's use of Shen Fu's memoir, which he translated himself from the Chinese, is quirky and inventive: lines from the memoir are woven seamlessly into the novel, sometimes uttered by characters in mid-conversation, and culminate in an ingeniously imagined version of the lost two chapters. Red-type passages and sentences appear in both stories as bloodlines, connections to the past. Sections from Floating Life, symbolizing the ever-renewing passion of its lovers, dominate, but the highlighted fragments of Shen Fu's story are the most potent, a reminder of the immutability of art in a world where history has ostensibly given way to commerce. For those who share Jose's sensibilities, his tale lingers well after the last page. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Teens will find romance, intrigue, and excitement in the mystical Six Chapters of a Floating Life, a 19th-century Chinese tragedy retold by juxtaposing it with a modern version. Portions of the old tale, printed in red ink, are interspersed with the new; the red thread, winding through both, symbolizes passionate attachment. Shen, a young man from a distinguished family, is a buyer and appraiser of precious objects for a modern Shanghai auction house. His reputation for honesty and his impeccable English win him the chance to become an auctioneer, and to place on the docket four chapters, which he has just purchased, of the Six Chapters. However, fascinated by the tale, he can't sell it. He meets and falls in love with an Australian artist who has come to Shanghai seeking a cure for a potentially fatal disease. Ruth's prescient choice of words, her fluent Chinese, and her fragility remind Shen of Yun in the old tale. In that story, Yun chooses a concubine for her husband, but Shen Fu is inconsolable as Yun's health declines. In the modern parallel, Shen and Ruth meet Han, a sexpot on the make, in a popular karaoke nightclub. Han is a jarring, unbelievable character, but both are entranced with her and she completes the m?nage ? trois. Shen, wanting to avert the old tale's tragic ending, desperately seeks its missing two chapters; but the ending they provide only weaves a dreamlike reincarnation of lost love.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.