Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Falling Leaves

When I was reading this, I wondered how it would be possible to have a discussion on a nonfiction book, but we did and it lasted an hour. We enjoyed the Chinese history but Kareen said that was the only part she liked. She and Maureen were both griped that Adeline continued to allow herself to be used by her family. Kareen thought that if they came to her for assistance even today that she would give it.

We realized that the Chinese culture dictated the families behaviors and relationships somewhat, but there were those like Susan and Aunt Baba who were able to break away. We didn't understand why Father treated Yee Yee like he did, which is so counter to their custom of deference to elders. Joanne had the sense that writing this book was a form of catharsis for the author.

Niang was cruel and as Dianna said - evil. Joanne called her pathological. The power she held was mind-bending and at the heart of this autobiography, power she wielded ever after her death. She wanted to break Adeline and was never able to do it, so she cut her out of her will as her final blow. Carolyn joked that this was a fine Mother's Day book.

Maureen thought that medicine was one of the few fields in higher education that a woman at that time had open - be a doctor or be a teacher. Kathy noted that as obedient as Adeline was to Father, the only thing he wanted was for her to return as a gynecologist and practice in Shanghai, which she never did. She also marveled at how difficult it was to be a minority woman doctor at that time in London, yet she did it.

When Adeline had experienced so many awful things, I asked what one thing was the worst and they all agreed it was the duck. The one thing that she loved was brutally taken away. I wondered if they sent Adeline to school behind the Red Army lines, hoping that she would disappear.

We talked quite a bit about Catholicism and the family's conversion to it, what it contributed to them or didn't. Wilma didn't have the feeling that they were religious, but they did want to send their children to the upper class private parochial schools. We wondered if they hadn't converted, would the story have played out the same, and then we chatted a bit about Buddhism. We concluded with mothers and nuns in the schools.