Annie Wang,
The People's Republic of Desire
(Harper, 2006)

Annie Wang's second fiction release follows the lives of four modern metropolitan professional women, dealing with issues ranging from adultery to high fashion to the corporate ladder and even the inevitable nip/tuck. Sound like yet another Sex & the City pink cover wannabe? While it does have a pink cover, Wang's novel has a little more to offer -- our sassy females live in Beijing. They might live a life full of New York fashion, pastimes and careers, but there is an underlying element of cultural change (which does not come without conflict). The slang phrases used and then defined at the end of each chapter get to the heart of the cultural conflict between old and new China.

Wang herself knows the cultural conflict -- she is a migratory bird who actively moves back and forth between the East and West. The fictional narrator, Niuninu, is also one of these "fake foreign devils," a Western-educated woman who has returned to her homeland, to never blend in with her elders or her miniskirted peers. Ultimately, the tale of Niuninu and her three gal pals is about finding satisfaction in life. That is, the novel is about desire -- desire for those items that can give a modern woman satisfaction.

An excellent reading group guide can be found on the Harper Collins website. As chick lit, this book ranks high, but as literary fiction, it is a mediocre offering.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
9 December 2006

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