...a powerfully expansive novel ... Across the seven decades and three generations encompassed by the novel, Thien writes with the mastery of a conductor who is as in command of the symphony’s tempo as she is attuned to the nuances of each individual instrument ... [a novel of] remarkable authenticity.
Thien takes this history and weaves it into a vivid, magisterial novel that reaches back to China’s civil war and up to the present day ... a moving and extraordinary evocation of the 20th-century tragedy of China, and deserves to cement Thien’s reputation as an important and compelling writer.
...a beautiful, sorrowful work. The book impresses in many senses: It stamps the memory with an afterimage; it successfully explores larger ideas about politics and art; it has the satisfying, epic sweep of a 19th-century Russian novel, spanning three generations and lapping up against the shores of two continents ... The larger saga unfurls like silk — and proves similarly resistant to knots, a testament to Ms. Thien’s storytelling skills ... Ms. Thien captures painfully well the depersonalization and numbness of living through the Cultural Revolution.