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Myth and magic

Janie Chang combines historical fact and fantastical elements in a beguiling new novel


★ Dragon Springs Road

Janie Chang

Harper Avenue

JANIE CHANG’S SECOND novel is a remarkable read, brimming with magic and the grit of realism. According to a blog post, the author originally intended to write the story of a real-life Cinderella, Luo Jialing, a half-French Shanghai girl who sold sexual favours and flowers to survive until she married a wealthy man. It is a relief that Chang replaced an idealistic, romanticized narrative with a story rooted in hardship, hope, and questions of belonging.

Set in Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century, Dragon Springs Road traces the journey of seven-year-old Jialing, who is abandoned by her mother in the courtyard of a sprawling estate. Taken in as a bond servant by the Yang family, the estate owners, Jialing forms a friendship with the eldest daughter Anjuin, and befriends Fox, a spirit who has been haunting the courtyard for centuries.

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