Crimson China by Betsy Tobin – underwhelming

 In three words:

Eye-opening, underwhelming, bland

This book slightly underwhlemed me which is probably why it’s taken me a while to review. I am stuggling somewhat to review it too as I keep finding myself wanting to relay the plot rather that my feelings about the book as, to be honest, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.

To briefly summarise the plot: Wen is an illegal immigrant from China who gets caught up in the Morceombe Bay tragedy (for those who aren’t aware – this actually happened in Britain several years ago when over 20 illegal Chinese immigrants drowned while picking cockles for very little pay on Morecombe beach at night). Wen survives when he is rescued by Amgie who is a woman who is an alcaholic has decided to commit suicide on that very beach at the same time. Angie makes a last minute decision to save both herslef and Wen instead. After Wen is assumed dead, his twin sister Lili flies over to the UK as she can’t quite believe he is dead and is determined to track down his last known movements to get some closure. She doesn’t get what she bargained for as Wen is very much alive.

While this was not a bad book in any way, in fact on the whole I did enjoy reading it, it did however have the potential to be so much more. I would have liked the book to really bring the plights of the people involved and also their families who also had to suffer the consequences, to life. It never really pressed home to me the devestation of that night and the aftermath and nor did I ever feel fully engaged with any of the characters. Having said that, there were many good points too – in particular I liked the character of Wen: although I never felt he was fully fleshed enough to get to know him properly, I did like his observations of Englishness through his watching of Angie when she took him home.

What I liked about the book was the fact that it opens our eyes to immigrants in this country (both legal and illegal). The fact that everything is strange and foreign, our customs and eating habbits are different as well as the language barrier in many cases. It’s often easy to overlook why people have made the decision to leave everything they know and step into the unknown in search of work or a better life for their families. Crimson China goes some way to highlighting that, but again I never felt it was fully explored. If you want to read a truly fantastic book about coming to England as a foreigner then read Rose Tremain’s The Road Home – it is brilliant!

In summary – I enjoyed reading this but didn’t feel it went deep enough into any issue and I didn’t have any particular bond with any one character. Good story if your expectations aren’t too high.

(source: I read this book on my Kindle)


8 thoughts on “Crimson China by Betsy Tobin – underwhelming

  1. It’s a shame this wasn’t as good as you expected it to be – it does sound like an interesting story. I’ll take your advice and read The Road Home instead!


  2. When i saw this in your side bar, i had a look at the blurb and it pulled me in and i got this from ebay… maybe i’ll lower it down on the tbr now!


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