What an immersive historical fiction novel! The Porcelain Moon is a transportive novel that takes you directly to France during World War I. I have read my fair share of books about the great wars, so I enjoyed this refreshing new take by Janie Chang.
The Porcelain Moon follows two women living in France during World War I and the troubles they face due to their race and sex. Pauline is an illegitimate Chinese orphan that was adopted by her uncle, Louis, and moved to Paris as a young girl. Almost like a servant (but more loved since her uncle’s first wife stayed in China), Pauline grows up learning her uncle’s business as an antiques dealer. She is a quick learner, and with the help of her cousin Theo, Pauline can do many aspects of the job including keeping the books and doing the accounting. Pauline loves her life in Paris. She has a job she is great at, and she has much more freedom as an unmarried woman in Paris than she would ever have married back in China. When a letter comes from Louis’ first wife, Pauline’s life changes when she finds out she is about to be married.
Camille is a French born woman living in the small town of Noyelles-sur-Mer. Her life takes a rather different turn from Pauline’s as she grows up wealthy, only to have her family lose everything. Her family is moved from the largest chateau in town to a small cabin, and most of their worldly goods are sold away overtime to keep afloat. When she loses her grandmother and father, Camille is left with only an abusive husband and very little freedom. She can leave the house for short periods to work in the village post office or do some sewing jobs, but otherwise her movements are pretty restricted. Camille is left pondering her future when she falls in love with a Chinese soldier.
This novel was truly immersive to me. Both main characters were very well-developed, and I found an instant attraction to them and their lives. I loved the incorporation of Chinese fables into the story line and hearing two unique perspectives of women during WWI. The Porcelain Moon is heartbreaking at times, but also very empowering. It is a novel I will definitely want to re-read again in the future!
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