Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan


Genre: Cultural, Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction

Pages: 400

Published by Knopf

Release date: February 23rd, 2016




A stunning story of love, betrayal, and family, set against the backdrop of a changing Taiwan over the course of the twentieth century.

February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, just after midnight as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community—conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family—the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before.  

As the novel sweeps across six decades and two continents, the life of the narrator shadows the course of Taiwan’s history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial law and, finally, to Taiwan’s transformation into a democracy. But, above all, Green Island is a lush and lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: how far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?


This is a difficult book for me to review, not that it was a bad book because it most certainly wasn’t, however, it was something out of my normal read. This is also a topic I usually shy away from as I’m not really one to read about war stories or recent past history. This being said…

The book is set in Taiwan during a dictatorship and the story begins on the day the youngest of the Tsai family is born and by coincidence it is also the beginning of an uprising in Taiwan. Soon the father is taken in as a prisoner and leaves his wife and children [and his darling newborn,] behind.
It is written so beautifully that it makes you feel as if you were right there with the family, experiencing first hand the horrors that they did. You feel the pain as well as the terror. All in all a great read, it was a bit harder for me to get into it at first but then I became so invested as this story goes decades into the characters life.

Worth the read if this is up your alley!




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