Whittemore, Edward -- Quin's Shanghai Circus

The only Whittemore novel I didn't already have. This meanders across pre-and-post-war Japan in the same way that the Sinai Quartet does the Middle East. I've already described Whittemore as "there is nothing else like him", and this remains true.

This was Whittemore's first novel, and it has a perceptibly different tone than the Quartet: darker, proffering human love and cruelty and compassion and madness in equal measure. (Not that the later books are free of cruelty and madness -- the atrocities at Smyrna are one pole of that narrative, as Nanjing is of this one -- but the Quartet is much more about love and compassion in the face of a world which includes cruelty and madness.)

Quin's Shanghai Circus is, nonetheless, full of wonderful things, wonderful people, drunks, pornography, saints, buddhas, a man with a wasabi habit, spies, circuses, mothers, and things shoved up people's butts, all in a wild tangle of storylines that cross decades. Nothing else is like this.

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