The Sea of Trees

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Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997 - Fiction - 227 pages
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In her first novel, Yannick Murphy surveys the landscape of imperialism through the unflinching gaze of an adolescent girl named Tian. Her name - short for Christiane - is a mark of her divided loyalties. Half French and half Chinese, Tian is detained in an isolated jungle camp when the Japanese invade Indochina at the outset of World War II. With spellbinding candor, Tian details her life in the camp while she waits for liberation with her mother, her baby sister, and her Chinese amah. Tian takes a remarkably clear-eyed view of her circumstances. The camp is a perilous place, where brutality can slip without warning into nightmarish comedy. Tian's mother escapes into memory, filling the tropical nights with tales of France and lost romance. Her amah proffers enigmatic bits of ancient wisdom. But with all the stark frankness of youth, Tian maintains an unnerving pragmatism and an unbending will to survive. These prove to be her salvation when at last she and her family cross the sea of trees that separates them from freedom, and they journey from Shanghai to Saigon to Marseilles, making their way to America. The Sea of Trees is both raw and beautiful. From one girl's small corner of one moment in history, it encompasses a universal indictment of war's psychic toll on family and country. Based on stories from the author's own family and laced with Chinese folklore, it adds a distinctly feminine contour to the map of empire.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Murphy's (Stories in Another Language, 1987) debut novel is a vivid and often powerful, although almost as often curiously perfunctory, girl's-eye saga of a wildly endangered life in the Far East ... Read full review

The sea of trees

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In the compelling voice of the elder daughter of an aristocratic Frenchwoman and a Chinese military officer, first novelist Murphy tells of a time (the 1940s) and a place (Indochina) peopled by men ... Read full review


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About the author (1997)

Yannick Murphy is the author of the novels "Here They Come", "The Sea of Tree"s, and "Signed, ""Mata Hari", as well as two story collections and several children s books. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Chesterfield Screenwriting Award. Her work has appeared in "Best American Nonrequired Reading" and "The O. Henry Prize Stories". She lives in Vermont with her husband and their children.

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