K: The Art of Love, By Hong Ying (Trs Nicky Harman and Harry Zhao)

East meets West for erotic thriller in pre-war Beijing
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The Independent Culture

Hong Ying's svelte erotic thriller is based on the true story of the Bloomsbury poet Julian Bell and his affair with a married writer, Lin Cheng, in 1930s Beijing.

Bell – flame-haired, arrogant, impetuous – travels to China in search of an outlet for his left-wing politics, but finds himself immersed in the country's more arcane traditions, as Lin introduces him to the ancient Daoist arts of love. This is a very readable novel, skillfully crafted and gracefully rendered into English. (The abundant sex scenes do have a tendency to lapse into cliché, though, generally of the "he devoured her with his eyes" variety.) The "West-meets-East" theme is handled with delicacy, and the period detail lavishly realised.

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