On a remote island in British India, a mute four-year-old and the local girl who cares for him disappear on the eve of Japanese occupation, forcing the boy's parents, a young anthropologist and her physician husband, to take drastic measures to save the children.
The history of the fascinating archipelago in the Bay of Bengal comes alive ... The setting of the story is as remarkable as the plot ... The war story is fascinating ...
Channeling some past classics also skeptical of the colonial enterprise, Glorious Boy stands out from the crowded shelves of World War II literature by immersing the reader in one of the remoter theatres of the Asian half of the War.
In its desire to get the facts right, the story sometimes falters, its expositional historical details taking us away from the characters’ subjective experience. But the novel speaks to something larger than the moment ... As Hilary Mantel, author of the Cromwell trilogy, puts it in her rules for writers: 'Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change ... ' This is where Glorious Boy triumphs ... Claire is ahead of her time in many of her observations ... In some places, her inner monologue feels too didactic. Yet Claire’s critique of past malpractices in ethnography and colonial atrocities...challenges the white savior narrative. Because, in the end, what has she to offer this community? While some moments overwhelm with detail, at its most effective, Glorious Boy transcends history and geography and gets to the heart of things. In the everyday banality of motherhood and parenthood—from swimming lessons to toddler tantrums and the pains of breastfeeding—Liu invites the reader to bridge the gap between the present and the past, between ourselves and others.
... big, ambitious, sometimes messy, and consistently stunning. This novel tugged at my heart in all the right ways. I got teary explaining to my husband why I’d cried the night before, when I’d stayed up until two in the morning finishing the book. As her characters’ journey becomes increasingly fraught, Liu walks the emotional tightrope perfectly, never swaying into sentimentality but also never shying away from heartbreak ... The book is chockfull of intellectual quandaries, period details, and dialogue that sounds natural. From the text and author’s note, it’s clear that the novel is carefully researched, and the rich detail is certainly a strength. But sometimes, especially in the second half, the detail gets in the way of the pacing and the characters’ emotional journeys. I sometimes found myself restless, eager to move past an intricately worded passage to get to the exciting stuff. The pacing is also frustrating at times ... Still, Glorious Boy is an exciting read, a family story that morphs into a high-stakes adventure.