We have three souls, or so I'd been told. But only in death could I confirm this ...
So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the
ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from
above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside
her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin;
and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must,
they tell her, make amends.
As Leiyin delves back in time with
the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged
teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires
while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party,
she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and
instantly falls in love with him.
When Leiyin defies her father
to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over
her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted
marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she
discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife,
Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she
Suffused with history and literature, Three Souls is an
epic tale of revenge and betrayal, forbidden love, and the price we are
willing to pay for freedom.
It's been awhile since I've read some Chinese historical fiction and I'm so glad that I broke that streak. I've never read much about the Communist movement in China so this time period was really fascinating for me.
I thought the characters were complex enough to be both realistic and sympathetic. I loved Leiyin even though she could be naive and spoiled. All of the secondary characters were also very compelling - whether they were villains, friends, or dwelling in a moral gray area.
My overall opinion was that this is a great historical fiction novel that also encompasses some of the mystic religious qualities unique to Chinese culture (Leiyin's yin, yang, and hun souls). If you are a fan of Lisa See, Amy Tan, or just historical fiction in general - this is definitely a book worth checking out!