‘The story you are about to read will have to make do for the conversation we never had’
Set against the backdrop of the events that shaped China in the twentieth century – the Chinese Civil War, the Second World War, the Cultural Revolution – Canton Elegy is a love story, an adventure story and an intimate portrait of a family bound together by devotion as they struggle to survive. With his wife Belle and their four young children, Stephen Jin-Nom Lee braves famine and flood, corruption and the devastation of war, to make a home and a life for the ones he holds dear.
From the 300-mile journey Belle undertakes on foot when she and the children are trapped behind enemy lines in Hong Kong, to the night when he stands at his window watching Canton burn, Stephen observes his world with an artist’s sensibility and tells the family’s story with great tenderness – all so that his children may understand their history and remember their father’s love.
Looking across the years towards a time when he himself will be gone and their own lives may be drawing to a close, he puts his desire simply and powerfully: “I want my heart to have a voice so I can love you louder.”