Summary and book reviews of Lake with No Name by Diane Wei Liang

Lake with No Name

A True Story of Love and Conflict in Modern China

by Diane Wei Liang

Lake with No Name by Diane Wei Liang X
Lake with No Name by Diane Wei Liang
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Jun 2009, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Beijing University, 1986. The Communists were in power, but the Harvard of China was a hotbed of intellectual and cultural activity, with political debates and "English Corners" where students eagerly practiced the language among themselves. It was there that Wei met Dong Yi, beside the Lake with No Name.

Beijing University, 1986. The Communists were in power, but the Harvard of China was a hotbed of intellectual and cultural activity, with political debates and "English Corners" where students eagerly practiced the language among themselves. Nineteen-year-old Wei had known the oppressive days of the Cultural Revolution, having grown up with her parents in a work camp in a remote region of China. Now, as a student, she was allowed to immerse herself in study and spend her free hours writing poetry - that bastion of bourgeois intellectualism - beside the Lake with No Name at the center of campus. It was there that Wei met Dong Yi.

Although Wei's love was first subsumed by the deep friendship that developed between them, it smoldered into a passionate longing. Ties to other lovers from their pasts stood always between them as the years passed and Wei moved through her studies, from undergraduate to graduate. Yet her relationship with Dong Yi continued to deepen as each season gave way to the next.

Amid the would-be lovers' private drama, the winds in China were changing, and the specter of government repression loomed once again. By the spring of 1989, everything had changed: student demands for freedom and transparency met with ominous official warnings of the repercussions they would face. The tide of student action for democracy - led by young men and women around the university, including Dong Yi - inexorably pushed the rigid wall of opposition, culminating in the international trauma at Tiananmen Square.

On June 4, 1989, tanks rolled into the square and blood flowed on the ancient city streets. It was a day that would see the end of lives, dreams - and a tortuous romance between two idealistic spirits. Lake with No Name is Diane Wei Liang's remembrance of this time, of her own role in the democratic movement and of the friends and lovers who stood beside her and made history on that terrible day.

Chapter 1

One

Labor Camp

Plum blossom enjoys roaring snow; it should not be surprised to find a few flies frozen to death.

-- Mao Zedong, 1962

In my memory, my childhood landscape is one of paddy fields and green mountains stretching to the end of the sky, beyond clouds; air filled with the sweet scent of wildflowers, rivers meandering below, teeming with life and bamboo rafts punted by strong Miao boys sliding in and out of sight on the winding waterway. When night fell and the moon was high, love songs echoed across the river.

But my childhood was not supposed to have looked like this. All my friends, the children of my mother's colleagues, grew up on a labor camp on the east coast of China. I used to ask my parents, "Why did we go to Sichuan instead of Shandong?" Eventually, one day, they told me.

"Because that was where your father went and we decided that the family should stay together," said my mother.

"But why couldn't Baba come with you to your labor camp? My friends ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Poetic reflection defines this moving memoir that deftly weaves the personal and political into a shining braid. Diane Wei Liang has written a lament for her homeland, one that teems with regret for what could have been.   (Reviewed by Marnie Colton).

Full Review (1085 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Simple prose creates powerful imagery as the author examines how political oppression has shaped China and the lives of its people.

Booklist

A fascinating firsthand account of the passionate student push for a democratic China.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book


Chinese Propaganda Posters
At one point in Lake with No Name, Diane Wei Liang recounts her harrowing childhood experience bringing cabbage in from the frost, a yearly event that all the children at the collective had to participate in to demonstrate their strength and patriotism. Liang describes becoming ill with fever after carrying damp, cold cabbages for hours, and then listening to the radio announcers praise the heroic efforts of the peasantry in preserving the winter crop. As miserable as this task was in reality, it would have made the ideal subject for a Chinese propaganda poster, the state-sponsored artwork that dominated the Chinese cultural landscape until the late 20th century.

From the late 1940s through the 1980s, the ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Lake with No Name, try these:

  • Beijing Coma jacket

    Beijing Coma

    by Ma Jian

    Published 2009

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    At once a powerful allegory of a rising China, racked by contradictions, and a seminal examination of the Tiananmen Square protests, Beijing Coma is Ma Jian’s masterpiece. Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty, and deep rage, this extraordinary novel confirms his place as one of the world’s most significant living writers.

  • A Free Life jacket

    A Free Life

    by Ha Jin

    Published 2009

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A moving, realistic, but always hopeful narrative novel of the Wu family - father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao - as they fully sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begin a new, free life in the United States.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."
—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.