River East, River West is a book that was kindly sent to me by the PR team behind the book itself. It’s a fascinating book that covers tells the story of two separate people who end up being a huge part of each other’s lives. Both have struggles, both have hopes and both are more like than either of them wishes to admit.
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River East, River West tells the stories of Alva and Lu Fang. Ala’s story is told in Shanghai, 2007 and tells of her story of the learnings of growing up, the struggles with having an unreliable mother and a dream of moving to america to get away from it all. The other story tells of Lu Fang from 1985 to 2004 as he grows up from a young man to a successful businessman and an affair he has along the way.
River East, River West plot – 4.5/5
I spoke about River East, River West a couple of times over on my TikTok and noted that, despite the plot never really having any fast-paced moments, there was something about it that had me utterly hooked.
There are some dark moments later on that, if you’re struggling to keep going, will pull your attention right back in again but in general, the plot is pushed mostly by Aube Rey Lescure’s amazing writing. She writes about these characters with such passion that it feeds through into the story and the plot itself.
There’s a lot of pain, a lot of discovery and a lot of mature moments in River East, River West that will keep you hooked. The flow of the story never seems to dull and rarely have many books recently had me as engrossed as this one did.
Also if you’re interested in Chinese history, there are some fascinating political and cultural references in this book that will help immerse you in those time periods.
River East, River West characters – 4.5/5
To be able to write characters who aren’t funny, aren’t big personalities and yet whom I found myself utterly engrossed by is a real achievement. I think Aube Rey Lescure has really managed to capture the essence of being a young, troubled and naive girl and also that of an older, lost man – quite some feat.
Alva, who I felt really was our main character is desperate for her life to not just be a little bit easier and normal but to also be more American. She’s enamoured by the idea of American movies – high school, college, malls, going to the movies, shopping etc. Chinese culture doesn’t encourage these but Alva finds herself wanting these because it seems like such a fun life.
Lu Fang is much older, we join his story as a young and ambitious man who finds himself falling in love with an American woman who goes against so many of the stereotypes he expects of women in China which fascinates him. Throughout the next few decades, he keeps finding her and keeps realising how much ease, joy and freedom she gives him. Until eventually, she doesn’t.
The relationship is connected by Sloan, Alva’s mother and Lu Fang’s lifetime affair. Sloan herself is a failed actor from America who is trying to keep down teaching jobs in China but is struggling due to her drinking habit and depression. I wasn’t a big fan of Sloan but I did have some sympathy for her as she did sometimes try her best.
River East, River West final rating – 4.5/5
I adored River East, River West. The characters were so utterly believable and going through such difficult situations that I couldn’t pull my eyes away most of the time. Rarely does a book have me so engrossed anymore that I’m excited to keep picking it up. Alva and Lu Fang have two fascinating stories that happen during different times in Chinese history that feel so genuinely real too. All of this makes for a book that I think will break your heart multiple times over and yet you’ll still find yourself loving.