Summary and book reviews of The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies

The Fortunes

by Peter Ho Davies

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies X
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2016, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of The Welsh Girl comes a groundbreaking, provocative new novel.

Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience.

Inhabiting four lives - a railroad baron's valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes Asian Americans, and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption - this novel captures and capsizes over a century of our history, showing that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive - as much through love as blood.

Building fact into fiction, spinning fiction around fact, Davies uses each of these stories - three inspired by real historical characters - to examine the process of becoming not only Chinese American, but American.

I: GOLD
Celestial Railroad

Beset by labor shortages, Crocker chanced one morn to remark his houseboy, a slight but perdurable youth named Ah Ling. And it came to him that herein lay his answer.
- American Titan, K. Clifford Stanton

1.

It was like riding in a treasure chest, Ling thought. Or one of the mistress's velvet jewel cases. The glinting brasswork, the twinkling, tinkling chandelier dangling like a teardrop from the inlaid walnut ceiling, the etched glass and flocked wallpaper and pendulous silk. And the jewel at the center of the box?- Charles Crocker, Esquire, Mister Charley, biggest of the Big Four barons of the Central Pacific Railroad, resting on the plump brocaded upholstery, massive as a Buddha, snoring in time to the panting, puffing engine hauling them uphill.

It was more than a year since the end of the war and the shooting of the president - the skinny one, with the whiskery, wizened face of a wise ape?- who had first decreed the overland railroad. His body ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Fortunes as a whole gives a memorable composite picture of the challenges life has posed for generations of Chinese-Americans. It's like a house of many windows; you may prefer the view from one or two more than the others, but they're all necessary to telling the story of the Asian-American experience.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (690 words).

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Media Reviews

Huffington Post
Davies’ novel resurfaces several of the darker moments in the history of America’s treatment of Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans in vivid terms that make each historical moment alive and rich with nuance.

Entertainment Weekly, "12 must-read novels out this fall"
Davies, a master storyteller, blends fact with fiction in this saga of immigration, acclimation, and Chinese culture, which he tells through the experiences of Chinese-Americans at different points in history.

Library Journal
The absence of a contiguous story line may initially alarm, but patient readers will discover how cleverly Davies interweaves fact and fiction to pull the novel together and show how far Chinese Americans have progressed - and how great the journey ahead is. A thought-provoking literary work for individuals interested in the Asian American experience

Kirkus Reviews
Davies' nuanced contemplation of how America has affected the Chinese (and vice versa) forces the reader to confront what is both singular and similar about all cross-cultural transactions.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The book's scope is impressive, but what's even more staggering is the utter intimacy and honesty of each character's introspection ... [Davies] has created a brilliant, absorbing masterpiece.

Booklist
Starred Review. Rich rewards await readers searching for superbly illuminating historical fiction; think Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing (2011) or Hilary Mantel's Cromwell trilogy.

BBC
Davies distills 150 years of Chinese-American history in his timely and eloquent new novel.

Author Blurb Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
Panoramic in scope yet intimate in detail, The Fortunes might be the most honest, unflinching, cathartically biting novel I've read about the Chinese American experience. It asks the big questions about identity and history that every American needs to ask in the 21st century.

Author Blurb Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Madeleine Is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles
Only a writer as gifted as Peter Ho Davies could capture the full weight of a century's history with such an extraordinary lightness of touch ... Buoyant yet profound, unsentimental yet affecting, and above all beautifully written,The Fortunes reimagines in thrilling ways what the multi-generational immigrant novel can be.

Author Blurb Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones, Men We Reaped, and Where the Line Bleeds
The Fortunes is wonderfully lucid and sharply imagined. From the very first page, the people in this novel rise from history and we root for them, empathizing with them, as they make their way in the early American West and beyond.

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Beyond the Book

Adoption From China

In The Fortunes, one of the main characters is adopting a baby from China. The U.S. Department of State reports that a total of 76,026 children were brought from China to the USA through adoption between 1999 and 2015. Of these, 87.1% were female and 12.9% male – a result of China's historical one-child policy and the frequent abandonment of girls at orphanages. Although China is still among the most popular for inter-country adoption into the United States, the frequency of adoption from another country has declined significantly from its peak in 2004.

Adoption from China International adoptions are controlled by the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption – the Hague Adoption ...

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