Book review: The Dancing Girl & the Turtle makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like light bondage with its tale of Chinese prostitution

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By Joyce Lau

dancing girlHookers with hearts of gold have undeniable appeal as characters. They are sensual and risqué, while also sympathetic and socially poignant. Unfortunately, they have also become as stereotypical as the girl bound to the railroad tracks in old Hollywood films. The challenge for any emerging author is to make something new of this old story.

Karen Kao does just that, with her debut novel The Dancing Girl & the Turtle an impressive entry in a long line of exotic, erotic novels starring Chinese prostitutes – from The World of Suzie Wong in 1957 to Lotus in 2017.

The book is set in 1930s Shanghai, an era of opium smoke, elaborate dance halls and glamorous women in cheongsam. Into this world steps Song Anyi, an innocent girl from the countryside who, rather predictably, is pale, slender and unusually beautiful. Her recently deceased parents were silk vendors who catered to the rich, leaving her as a lone orphan who (rather conveniently) also has fine fashion sense and ballroom dancing skills. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

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