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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Again I See the Gaillardias
by Li Tong
Age Range: 12+
After his family immigrated to Canada from Taiwan, Chen Yi-Xiong, the narrator, nicknamed ‘Glasses’ returns to the island of his birth, (Penghu, one of an archipelago of 64 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait of the South China Sea, off the west coast of Taiwan), for a twenty-year reunion with his classmates on the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
As the narrator immerses himself in Penghu’s landscapes – waves, fields, cows, coral-stone walls, Horsetail trees and most importantly the swathe of gaillardias, a rich profusion of yellow flowers – they all help to summon up memories from the past; of school, in the pottery workshop and on a trip to the island of Jibei.
A group of seven friends are brought together by their Arts and Crafts teacher Mr Tao, nick-named ‘Brother-in-law’ and through working together they learn to cherish their friendship and to understand their cultural roots.
Again I See the Gaillardias by Chinese author, Li Tong (1953-2004) provides rich, evocative descriptions, eloquently translated by Brandon Yen, of the rugged landscape of the islands, the intricacies of pottery and the search for antiquities on the island of Jibei. There is not much in the way of a story which might not appeal to some readers, but Tong really does give you a flavour of this area in the South China Sea and it’s about homecoming, understanding cultural roots and friendship and growing up.