Avenue of Eternal Peace Synopsis
Beijing is a city of opportunity and danger when cancer specialist Wally Frith arrives there from Sydney. Chance encounters have life-changing consequences. As the doctor’s journey spirals back into his own family story, memories and ghosts shadow the seductions of the present. Avenue of Eternal Peace is a kaleidoscopic novel of healing and hope. (Booktopia)
I am drawn to novels set in China, having studied the language and travelled in the country. I stayed for a short time at a Beijing University only six years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre (which this story foreshadows) and so I make note that my review of this novel is intimately coloured by my own personal experience.
Avenue of Eternal Peace by Nicholas Jose expertly captures the mood of Beijing as tension cultivated by the clash between progress and tradition, east and west, reached fever pitch in the late 1980s.
Although the prose may be considered decadent and verbose on occasion, having personally stood in some of the locations depicted I can fully appreciate Nicholas Jose’s eye for detail and talent for reflecting the mood of the city and its people.
Imperial puppets turned to clay… Born again as “Beijing” in the official romanization of New China’s standard language, a tongue no one spoke, the city of ghosts had been repossessed by peasants, soldiers and officials rising to the surface of the great Chinese ocean. City of devastation, ring roads, high-rise and infernal dust, trial and error, whims put into praxis, it was a masterwork in the stripping of human dignity. Yet here at its heart was the other masterwork of Time waiting monumentally in shadow.
When I visited China I found the culture both enthralling and perplexing – a melting pot of contradictions. Jose captured that feeling to a tee through the misadventures of Wally Frith and his ragtag group of acquaintances in Beijing. To the uninitiated, the experiences of these characters could seem far fetched and even fantastical. It is perhaps something you had to experience to fully appreciate how pervasive the contradictions and power of big brother in China at that time.
Nicholas Jose’s Avenue of Eternal Peace was short listed for the Miles Franklin Award in 1990. I think this nomination was deserved. This work captures the very human side of an important period in the regions history and explores the universal struggle between personal gratification and duty and obligation.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
I purchased a pre-loved copy of Avenue of Eternal Peace from BetterWorldBooks.com.
Genre: Romance, Mystery, Drama, Literature, Historical
Author Information: Nicholas Jose grew up mostly in Adelaide, South Australia. He was educated at the Australian National University and Oxford University. He has traveled extensively, particularly in China, where he worked from 1986 to 1990. He currently holds the Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide. (Wikipedia)
Another review of Avenue of Eternal Peace: Brian Keenan