Review: Three Souls

About the book, Three Souls

Three Souls

• Paperback: 496 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 25, 2014)

An absorbing novel of romance and revolution, loyalty and family, sacrifice and undying love

We have three souls, or so I’d been told. But only in death could I confirm this….

So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

Suffused with history and literature, Three Souls is an epic tale of revenge and betrayal, forbidden love, and the price we are willing to pay for freedom.

Buy a copy, and read it for yourself.

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About the author, Janie Chang

Janie Chang

Born in Taiwan, Janie Chang spent part of her childhood in the Philippines, Iran, and Thailand. She holds a degree in computer science and is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio Program at Simon Fraser University. Three Souls is her first novel.

Connect with Janie

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My Thoughts

I’ve been reading a lot of novels set in the “interwar” period between the first and second world wars this year, and Three Souls is the most recent of them, and also the last for a while. It’s an interesting period, and I’ve loved that two of the books set during these years focused on Asia, rather than being totally Eurocentric.

This book, in particular, I found to be really enjoyable, as it so nicely blends elements of magical realism – our narrator is dead at the novel’s beginning, after all – with pragmatic reality – “You haven’t seen me in years, and the first thing you notice is my new glasses?” (That’s a paraphrase, because I closed the book and lost the page, but it’s a close paraphrase.)

Whether the narrator is describing her disappointing wedding night or talking about the poet she wants and can’t have her voice is clear. We know her, and I, at least, resonated very strongly with her desire to choose her own path.

Three Souls is my first introduction to Janie Chang’s work. I really hope she ends up being prolific, because I love the way she writes, and I found this novel, in particular, to be not just engaging, but entrancing. Brava, Ms. Chang!

Goes well with strong black tea (Lapsang Souchong, maybe?) and far too many pot-stickers (I like the Korean version) to confess to in print.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the tour page, and more information, click here.

2 thoughts on “Review: Three Souls

  1. Pingback: Janie Chang, author of Three Souls, on tour February/March 2014 | TLC Book Tours

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