In a Nutshell:
Half a Lifelong Romance is set in the 1930s, the only clue of when the book is set, is a reference towards the end of the book, to the Battle of Shanghai, which started in August 1937: “the battle of Shanghai began in mid-august and the fighting was intense for three months.”
For the first half of the book, I thought it was a charming, quaint and poetic novel about two people in love (Shijun and Manzhen) who can’t quite get it together to get married and be together, but the second half of the book takes a much darker turn which draws you in. It is a brilliant book, sublimely translated and I am delighted that it is now open to a world of readers thanks to its recent translation and publication as a Penguin Classic.
I bought this book whilst on holiday in Hong Kong in Spring 2019. I had originally thought a novel by Eileen Chang would serve as an entry for Hong Kong in my book project. However, over dinner with some friends of my husband’s in Central HK (before buying this book) I discovered that Eileen Chang was in fact born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong for her university studies.
Half a Lifelong Romance (Bansheng yuan) was published in 1969 but it wasn’t translated into English until 2014. The book was originally entitled Eighteen Springs (Shiba chun), the story was published first in serial form, the first installment published in March 1950, in a Shanghai magazine sponsored by the communist party. It was then reissued in a single-volume format the following year. The novel was then significantly revised, retitled and published 18 years later.
“The whole room was thick with the sense of marital intimacy, leaving Shijun to wonder how in the world he’d landed here.”
“The memory of that moment was like a flight of arrows piercing her heart.”
Stockists: Want to read Half a Lifelong Romance? Buy it here.
Half a Lifelong Romance
Written by Eileen Chang
Translated from the Chinese by Karen S. Kingsbury
31/07/2014, Penguin Books Ltd
#WITMonth for 2021 is curated by Jess Andoh-Thayre
I am 35, from London but currently living in Cambodia. I am married to a diplomat and we have been posted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and now Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Prior to meeting my husband, I had also lived in La Serena, Chile and Madrid, Spain.
I am a French, Spanish and English teacher, translator, avid reader and now blogger. When I am not teaching, reading and blogging, I love catching a brilliant sunset, swimming, cycling and hanging out with my husband and son.
Author: Eileen Chang
Chang is considered as one of China’s greatest novelists. Born in 1920,in Shanghai. In 1939, she left home to study at the University of Hong Kong, paving the way for her career as a professional writer. In her lifetime, she wrote more than 60 novels, novellas, short stories, essays and screenplays. In 1955, Chang was named a cultural traitor by the Communist Party in China and fled to the US. She died alone in 1995 in Los Angeles.
Translator: Karen S. Kingsbury
Karen S. Kingsbury taught English in Chonqing, China, she studied Chinese in Taipei and, for fourteen years, taught English language and literature at Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan. Her Columbia University doctoral dissertation was on Eileen Chang.
She is currently a professor of International Studies at Chatham University in the USA.