Little Paradise has been described as "an epic love story set during World War Two in Melbourne and Shanghai"
I am more than a little in awe of how well incorporated the little details of setting and culture and have been weaved into the story. It's intricate and lyrical and one of those stories where you truly feel transported to the time and place while reading. It's a perfect example of research not bogging down a story - just used deftly to make it shine. Once the scene is set, the story flows along wonderfully. (The beginning, while beautifully written, took a little for me to warm up into).
The story is fascinating and always a little unexpected. There's family dramas and secrets (I personally loved the Mirabelle's Mothers story - fascinating and mind-boggling), there's friends and a war-time romance, which is kept a secret from Mirabelle's family. There's intrigue, love and disappointments. There's scandal and mental illness and daring adventures.
It's epic not only in it's settings from Melbourne to Adelaide and then a war devastated Shanghai, but also in the period of life Mirabel is going through - she begins as a 17 year old dreamer, longing for love and tinkering with art to having an illegitimate child, risking her life through a war-torn nation in search of JJ, her soldier boyfriend. By the end of the novel Mirabel is in her early twenties.
I loved all the little snippets Wang snuck in the narrative concerning Chinses culture and history. They slipped so effortlessly into the prose adding a richness to the story.
I really enjoyed the first half in Melbourne - but the second half - wow - the story just really took off in China. I was captivated and amazed at events that unfolded. It's really stunning - even more so considering it is inspired by a true story.
Recommended: Anyone who loves historical fiction, fascinating cultural history or a war-torn love story will really appreciate and enjoy this. It's a beautifully told story, heart-felt and powerful - a story that will resonate after the last page. It's particularly rich in setting and just oozes heart.
Bonus: I wasn't sure about copyright so I haven't posted the images here - but you should check out these illustrations Gabrielle's mum drew, which are also included inside the book (scroll down a little). Just stunning.
The girl on the front cover in that stunning blue dress? It's actually a photo of Gabrielle's mother!
Links you may be interested in:
Little Paradise @ goodreads
Little Paradise @ Penguin
Read an extract
About Gabrielle Wang
Gabrielle Wang's website
Many thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy