Summary and book reviews of Flash House by Aimee Liu

Flash House

by Aimee E. Liu

Flash House
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2003, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2004, 464 pages

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Book Summary

An extraordinary novel of love and loyalty, intrigue and survival set against the turbulent backdrop of post-World War II India and China, introducing two singular heroines: a strong-minded American woman and a mesmerizing young Indian girl.

From acclaimed author Aimee Liu comes an extraordinary novel of love and loyalty, intrigue and survival set against the turbulent backdrop of post-World War II India and China. Flash House introduces two singular heroines: a strong-minded American woman and a mesmerizing young Indian girl whose journey together through a mysterious and exotic land will lead them into the heart of danger--and forever transform both their lives…

Flash House

"I, too, was a foreigner, my homeland a world apart…" On assignment in India with her journalist husband, Joanna Shaw runs a refuge for girls trafficked into Delhi's red-light district. It is here in the dusty, sunbaked streets of the old city that she discovers the turquoise-eyed Kamla. Joanna vows to rescue Kamla from the brothel--or flash house--where the eleven-year-old child has spent most of her life. But it is Kamla who claims Joanna at first sight, and when Joanna's husband, Aidan, disappears while pursuing a politically explosive story in the mountains of Kashmir, it is Kamla who must come to Joanna's emotional rescue.

Although the authorities insist that Aidan's plane has crashed, Joanna refuses to believe the worst. Aidan is alive, and she resolves to find him at any cost. Accompanied by Kamla and Aidan's best friend, an enigmatic Aussie named Lawrence Malcolm, she embarks on a dangerous trek across the highest passes of the Himalayas.

For Joanna, the trek to find Aidan is a quest for truth. For Lawrence, it is a rescue mission that will lead to Red China--and an agonizing, life-or-death choice that teaches him the meaning of love and betrayal. And for the orphan Kamla, caught between two worlds, it is an odyssey into the tantalizing mystery of her birth.

Weaving the story of all three into the chaos and confusion of Asia's cold war, Aimee Liu gives us a spellbinding, multi-layered tale in which the ultimate safe haven is the elusive place called home.

Chapter 1

FROM THE BEGINNING, we were sisters more than mother and daughter. Joanna Shaw rescued me in her way, and I tried to return the favor. I do not say this boastfully, but ironies are the way of the world, and now that I am an old woman I tell you with certainty that those who presume to lift another are most often in need of being raised themselves.

At the same time, those who appear the weaklings of this earth may possess strengths that overrule the mighty--that, indeed, may surpass even their own deepest longings and desires. I have seen this to be the case among women and children of my kind for as long as I can remember. Mrs. Shaw, too, was of my kind, though on the now distant day when I first claimed her I did not know this to be true.

On the contrary, as I watched her making her way down G. B. Road in her stiff yellow dress and broad-brimmed hat with her handsome young Hindu escort I thought this must be some pampered firenghi who possesses no notion of pain. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the opening pages, Kamla states that "Joanna Shaw rescued me in her way, and I tried to return the favor." How and why did Joanna need to be "rescued," or was that need only in Kamla's mind? Was Kamla successful in her attempt to return the favor?

  2. Joanna Shaw is a social worker who attempts to rescue girls who've been trafficked into India's sex trade. What does her chosen profession reveal about her character? Why is this important within the overall story?

  3. "Flash house" is a Victorian term for brothel-or house of prostitution. Kamla escapes from just such a house, but how does the metaphor of the "flash house" reflect other aspects of the novel?

  4. Early in the novel...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

LA Times Book Review

...[Liu] has an eye for scenery and a feel for the details of period life in India...memorable...

Publishers Weekly

The ending is a crescendo of bittersweet revelations, in which Liu's ability to probe issues of East versus West rises to a new level.

Kirkus Reviews

A missing-persons thriller set in the late 1940s' borderlands of Kashmir, where a determined American wife sets about uncovering what became of her journalist husband.

Booklist - Meredith Parets

Liu's latest novel is part love story, part gripping tale of espionage, and part primer on the tangled early years of the cold war... Richly evocative prose and a memorable cast of characters should win this novel a wide readership.

Author Blurb Carolyn See, author of Handyman
An extraordinarily thoughtful and engrossing tale of romance and intrigue; of heroic individuals from disparate cultures caught in the unforgiving vise of history.

Author Blurb Jack Miles, Pulitzer prize-winning author of God A Biography
Flash House races forward into territory that, for most of us, is still almost entirely unknown. The result is an education wrapped in an adventure.

Author Blurb Peter Lefcourt, author of The Dreyfus Affair and Eleven Karens
Beautifully written and emotionally compelling…an adventure full of surprise and delight.

Reader Reviews

ACL, Boston, MA, USA

Intriguing plots and mesmerizing characters.
Would love to read more of Aimee's books.
Bravo!

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