Ten Thousand Things-John Spurling

Ten Thousand Things
John Spurling
Overlook, Apr 10 2014, $27.95
ISBN 9781468308327

While sitting on a cold stone floor waiting for judgment, septuagenarian Wang Meng knows the bad times are back as he muses on being arrested for suspicion of conspiracy due to his visiting the art collection of the late prime minister executed five years ago for the same charge he faces. He thinks back over the decades of his life when he ignored his wife’s harangue to better their lot by choosing painting landscapes and a low level bureaucratic job over using his direct family connection to the emperor. During those years Wang watched the once invincible Mongol Dynasty that he and his Great Family ancestry supported collapse into lawlessness until the rise of the Ming Dynasty brought order. Still with all the turmoil, Wang loves to paint nature, which led him to other artists, a teenage Buddhist novice, and White Tigress and her bandits who roamed the countryside.

This enchanting biographical historical fiction is a superb look at fourteenth century chaotic China through the eyes of a renowned influential artist. Though there is some action especially with what is happening in China, readers will appreciate more the sense of walking the mountains alongside of Wang Meng as he captures nature with his inks.

Harriet Klausner

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