The stories which form part of this collection act as snapshots into the lives of the characters are they navigate the at times dreary and decadent society of China just as it is in the thrones of revolution and change. Anyi is able to depict the banal, quotidian events which make up their lives and turn them into something almost transcendent, such as in ‘And the Rain Patters On’, where a lachrymose young woman is roused out of her romantic stupor by the appearance of a young man who offers her a ride on the back of his bicycle. The atmosphere Anyi is able to create resembles the mood of the young woman who the story focuses on, etiolated and incandescent beneath the ceaseless patter of rain, the story largely takes place in the imagination of the young woman as she reminisces about her relationship with the young man, whose presence acts as a break from the sense of boredom which has taken over her life.
Otherwise Anyi deftly explores various aspects of human frailty, from the sense of selfishness which divides a family in ‘The Destination’ to the internal politics of a travelling cultural troupe in ‘The Stage, A Miniature World’. If anything the longest story, ‘Lapse of Time’ is the weakest in the collection, as it meanders to its conclusion, whereas Anyi’s real strength lies in her ability to capture the lives of her characters in shorter, more condensed stories. Whilst lacking the artistic genius of her opus ‘The Song of Everlasting Sorrow’, her stories often contain little nuggets of beauty which, just like her characters, can be overlooked if the reader doesn’t look carefully enough;
“The rain, misting down. is again making a low swishing sound. It washes the road clean and bright, lighting up the fresh, sky-blue, murmuring world.”