The Dance of the Spirits

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During the Korean War, a young American officer is overwhelmed and captured, while a young female Chinese doctor struggles to heal the wounded in the Chinese Communist army. These two have several brief encounters with each other and eventually develop a love that is stronger than all the horrors that war can throw at them.

/Dance of the Spirits opens on the battlefield, with typical (and typically gruesome) scenes of blood, horror, and destruction. However, Jasmine’s backstory is moving and excellently told. How she, the first child of a rich bourgeois merchant came to be serving on the front lines in Korea is the subject of an extended flashback after a battlefield attack. After a pampered and sheltered childhood, her father’s philandering suddenly leaves her destitute and forced to rely on only herself. To fulfill her dead mother’s wishes, she studies to become a doctor, and when her family is accused of crimes against the State, she joins the Army to try to save their honor and fortune, even though they have disowned her. Her independent mind gets her in trouble with the Army commanders, and she finds herself on the front lines in Korea. There, she periodically encounters an American officer, Wesley, and their fortunes become intertwined.

Although the plot here sounds a little contrived, I found it believable and compelling. I found myself deeply interested in Jasmine’s fortunes and trials; her story was poignant, and her love with Wesley sensitive and beautiful. Although the story is fictional, it seemed true to people’s experiences during this time, both in China during the revolution and on the war front.

Jasmine’s thoughts and emotions are laid bare for the reader, and she deepens and grows as a character throughout her challenges. Wesley is more of a cipher; you don’t know everything about him, but come to trust Jasmine’s impressions of him as you get to know her character and as she learns to depend more on herself. There are just enough politics to explain the characters’ actions and the effects of the revolution on ordinary people’s lives. The story came to a satisfying (although emotional) conclusion and left me feeling thoughtful and more compassionate about those who endure the devastation of war.

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Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 335 pages
Publisher Aurora
Publish Date 24-Sep-2013
ISBN 9780989690928 Buy this Book
Issue January 2014
Category Historical Fiction


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