My fascination with the East continues. I bought this book after chatting with the author on Twitter and Facebook and reading some of its reviews which I found intriguing. Here is the blurb:
Junying Kirk completes her “Journey to the West” trilogy with this inter-racial saga. A complex love story is interwoven through a tale of international crime, broken dreams, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. “Journey” is just that, a merciless trek from the coast of Southern China to the drug farms in the heart of England, exposing worlds you never would have imagined exist.
Although I started with the third book in the series, I didn’t feel as though I was missing something in the background detail. The main character of the book is Pearl Zhang, a Chinese (Mandarin) interpreter who works with the police and social services agencies throughout the UK. Pearl is a well rounded character who immigrated to the UK many years earlier and is currently separated and dealing with relationship issues with her husband, Andrew, whom she is still very much attached to.
Kirk uses Pearl’s job as a catalyst to explore the lives of different individuals who have moved from China to the UK for a plethora of different reasons. As each of these cross Pearl’s professional path we are given a preview into their own world in China where we find what prompted them to move to the UK, the conditions they moved in, their hopes and dreams, and the lives they now share here.
The descriptive imagery is very vivid in this book. At times we are plunged into the restrictions of Chinese society, prostitution, and the harsh realities of human trafficking. Some of the stories are heartbreakingly painful, others cruel and sinister as we get to know the individual characters and follow their journey, however Pearl’s background and social conscience leads her to empathise and attempt to help them throughout. This coupled with her own professional and personal struggles, not mention love interests, makes for a very interesting read.
I find it hard to box this book into a particular genre. It does run alongside police investigations but, although it is a fairly fast moving tale with a nice suspenseful twist at the end, it doesn’t feel like your archetypal thriller. It is more a tale of Chinese culture and society and the differences individuals faced between their thoughts of the west and their actual experiences living here.
I’d certainly recommend this character driven novel. Kirk has a very easy writing style that manages to paint the picture in the reader’s mind without being overly descriptive. It’s absorbing, informative and heart wrenching in places. I have the first in the series on my reading list and look forward to seeing how Pearl’s character begins her story.