Book Review: Brushstrokes in Time
Brushstrokes in Time is a fictional memoir following the life of Xiaodong (English translation: Little Winter) starting in communist China and continues past the death of Mao. It aims to shine a light on the revolutionary group ‘The Stars Art Movement’, dealing with the heavy subject of politics, suppression and freedom of speech intertwined with passion for the future and coming of age.
Little Winter realises that her attempts at hiding her past have only created a rift in her and her daughter’s relationship. This fracture inspires her to look back at the painful memories and share them, through this memoir, with her teenage daughter Sara. The story begins on the grounds of the old Imperial Summer Palace in 1962 and young Little Winter is living a calm and graceful life with her mother and father, but that beautiful childhood soon becomes a distant memory. Little Winter’s life has always been influenced by art but it is going to take her years before she can even dream about fully expressing herself.
The mixture of a mother’s love and the distant longing for a home no longer in existence, creates a sepia coloured perspective. Facts and fiction flow flawlessly being the quality of a well written memoir - every word Little Winter illustrates is an honest truth. The dangerous love of art and the need of self-expression is an emotion that continues throughout the narrative, at times being vital and other times fatal for hers and other peoples’ well-being. The notion that something constantly looms ahead adds an Orwellian atmosphere to the delicate and romantic story. Little Winter proves her courage often but the focus sporadically falls away from her, onto the brave acts of the people surrounding her, making it easy to sympathise and identify with. Some of the characters are people that actually existed,others are entirely fictional and at times, it is impossible to know the difference.
Vetta has written an intriguing, heart breaking yet tender story about a time and place in history where people were punished for not thinking the right thing. Brushstrokes in Time is set in what once felt very different to western civilisation but on closer inspection, the differences are somewhat minimal. Because when it comes down to the core, human beings just want to feel safe, be loved, and have the opportunity to choose what kind of life they want to lead.
By Johanna Hallin
Posted on 09/04/2017
by Sue Cawte filed under