Dragonfly Eyes

By Cao Wenxuan

A family saga spanning fifty years and three generations, which takes the reader from the France of the Golden Age to poverty-stricken post-war Shanghai via the re-imagined rural China of the Cultural Revolution.

Ah-Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai, share a rare bond. Maybe because Ah-Mei is the only girl grandchild, or maybe because the pair look so alike – and because neither look much like the rest of their Chinese family. Politics and war make 1960s Shanghai a hard place to grow up, especially when racism and bigotry are rife, and everyone is suspicious of Nainai’s European heritage. Ah-Mei and her family suffer much in this time of political upheaval, and when the family silk business falters, they are left with almost nothing. But Ah-Mei and her grandmother are resourceful, and they have one another – and the tenderness they share brings them great strength.

Categories: Fiction

For readers aged: 12+

  • Publication details:
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781406378252
  • Published: 07 Jan 2021
  • Price: £7.99
  • Size: 198 x 129 mm
  • Pages: 384

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Customer reviews


'Featured in The Bookseller's January Previews 2021,' The Bookseller

'Cao Wenxuan has a lush, lyrical style which is beautifully translated by Helen Wang (anyone who has read Bronze and Sunflower will know what I mean) and I was lulled by the sweetness of the beginning into thinking that it was really intended for younger readers. But with the 1960s, life gets darker and more complex for Ah-Mei: society disintegrates around the family, Nainai is attacked simply for being foreign, and the story ends with what might be a natural death or might be suicide. Enthralling.' Asian Book Blog

'Best suited for confident readers of 11 upwards, this sublime story also comes highly recommended for adults who appreciate elegant writing and tales with a timeless, classic atmosphere. I adored every word.' LoveReading

'The story speaks with a strong, true voice that seems both fairytale and real world in the same breath. The writing brings all the texture, nuance and reality of the Chinese cultural revolution and displays how the world around this one family; people they have known for decades get caught up in the harsh, suspicious sentiments of this radical change. Incredibly moving, unsettling and comforting at the same time, this is a novel for us all. Quiet, lyrical and so very powerful.' Fallen Star Stories Blog

'Dragonfly Eyes is a charming new novel for young readers – with plenty to offer older ones as well – by Cao Wenxuan. […] Dragonfly Eyes, like that earlier work, benefits from Wang’s ability to capture in a fluid fashion the cadence and lyricism of Cao’s gentle prose style.' Times Literary Supplement

'The best historical fiction brings a past era to life via three-dimensional characters who are so authentic that the reader is tempted to look them up to see if they actually existed. Océane/Nainai, Ah Mei, and their family are fictional, but the characters and the setting are so fully-fleshed that they could well have been real.' Global Literature in Libraries

'Cao Wenxuan has a Disney-like magic. With his lyrical writing, he can turn suffering and tears into soap bubbles that float away in the sky. […] I believe that young readers will not only enjoy Dragonfly Eyes as a beautiful story, like a fairy tale, but will also have the courage to seek for truth and to learn about reality. Perhaps this is the primary aim of all writers of children’s books, and their gift to the next generation.' Chinese Books for Young Readers

'Readers … will have their hearts in their mouths.' Wall Street Journal

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