Kristin Stapleton, Fact in Fiction : 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family

Torrance, Ronald (2018) Kristin Stapleton, Fact in Fiction : 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family. [Review]

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    Abstract

    There are few resources amongst contemporary Chinese literary criticism that manage to weave such insightful literary readings and incisive historical research as Kristin Stapleton’s Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family. The book accomplishes three feats, as set out by Stapleton in her introductory chapter, simultaneously incorporating a history of twentieth-century Chengdu (and its relevance to the developments in China during this period, more broadly) alongside the author’s biography of Ba Jin’s formative years in the city and the historiographical context of his novel Family. Such an undertaking by a less skilled author would have, perhaps, produced a work which simplifies the rich historical underpinnings of Ba Jin’s Family to supplementary readings of the novel, coupled with incidental evidence of the political and social machinations of the city in which its author grew up. Not so under Stapleton’s careful guidance. By reading the social and economic development of early twentiethcentury Chengdu as much as its fictional counterpart in Ba Jin’s Turbulent Stream trilogy, Stapleton provides a perceptive reading of Family which invites the reader to consider how fiction can enrich and enliven our understanding of history.