The Jade Peony

A Novel

Choy, Wayson

(Book - 1997)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Jade Peony
Chinatown, Vancouver, of the early 194Os provides the backdrop for this fresh, uplifting, award-winning first novel, told through the reminiscences of the three young children of an immigrant Chinese family. Jook-Liang is the useless girl of the family, who dreams of becoming Shirley Temple and escaping the rigid, old ways of China. Jung-Sum is the adopted middle son who triumphs over loss and prejudice through boxing, and soon finds himself grappling with a bewildering sexual attraction. Lastly, Sekky - the sickly youngest child - surprises the entire family by teaching them how to mourn, and how to go on living. Finally, there are the secrets and magic of two respected elders: Old Wong, The Monkey King, whose past returns to threaten his present and Poh-Poh, or Grandmother, who is the heart and pillar of the family. Side by side, her three grandchildren survive hardships and heartbreaks with grit and humor, discovering a new land without forgetting their common ground.

Series that include this title

Publisher: New York : Picador, 1997
Edition: 1st Picador USA ed
ISBN: 0312155565
Branch Call Number: FICTION CHOY
Characteristics: 238 p. ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

Choy's book has won all kinds of Canadian literary awards, and it gives a person, immediate view into the life of a Vancouver Chinese family in the 1940s.

Vancouver, in the late 1930s and '40s provides the backdrop for this poignant first novel, told through the vivid reminiscences of the three younger children of an immigrant Chinese family.

From the critics

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Sep 27, 2013
  • Eil_1 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This book evolves around the experiences of the lives of 3 Chinese children, Grandmother, 'Stepmother' and Father in Vancouver during the 20's and 30's. It was an enlightening and excellent story - mixed equally with humor, love and Family values. The sequel is also definitely even more engrossing.

Jun 17, 2013
  • WVMLBookClubTitles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Choy’s first novel reads like a memoir and is a collection of stories about a family living in Vancouver’s Chinatown before and during World War II. Three siblings experience very different childhoods as they grow up amongst the strict structures of a traditional Chinese family struggling with poverty and a rapidly changing world. Sister Jook-Liang is entranced by her hero Shirley Temple, while her adopted brother Jung-Sum struggles with his sexuality and their brother Sekky becomes obsessed with war games. Stepmother is a house servant and concubine who gradually assumes the role of mother but can never achieve full status in the home. The complexity of the extended family is beautifully portrayed by Choy and his descriptions of wartime Vancouver are memorable.

Jun 08, 2012
  • jvanderg rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Excellent novel deals with so many important topics. Not only that, it gives a glimpse into life in Vancouver during the 30s and 40s.

May 05, 2011
  • snowspirit1 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Must read!

Mar 31, 2011
  • vwruleschick rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

It is a story told from three different perspectives that are all children of a Chinese immigrant family in Vancouver BC before and during WWII and how they are coping with a new culture, language and they fit in whilst their traditional Grandma (Poh Poh) is trying to ensure her grandchildren honour their heritage and culture and not be assimilated to their new country. A short read.

Oct 29, 2010
  • andieallie rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book greatly illustrates the poverty and discrimination that the Chinese-Canadians went through during the Depression. Each character longs to be accepted in their own way, but it's all tied together.

The language was a little difficult for me to understand; there's a lot of similies and metaphors, but if you don't struggle with descriptive vocabulary, it's a really good read.

Jul 29, 2010
  • dliew3 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Great book, really tackles many issues related with identity and what it means to be Chinese-Canadian. The historical backdrop of Vancouver during WWII to really adds to the story but never draws away from the characters themselves.

Jun 26, 2010
  • macierules rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

One of the 2 finalists in the Canada Reads 2010 competition losing to Nikolski. Authentic-feeling Chinese immigrant experience set in Vancouver during the 2nd world war. I liked it a lot more than Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.

Feb 01, 2010
  • AureliaReads rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Lovely, touching, poignant.
Very beautiful book, with interesting structure.

Reminded me of Shanghai Girls. Interesting to compare the two books.

This would make a good winner for Canada Reads 2010, but I'm still hoping for Nikolski to win.

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Apr 30, 2010
  • vegbrarian rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

vegbrarian thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Aug 06, 2008
  • pie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

pie thinks this title is suitable for 7 years and over


Add a Summary

Three Chinese Canadian siblings tell the story of their very different childhoods in Vancouvers's Chinatown before and during World War II.

Aug 06, 2008
  • pie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Story of the life of a Chinese immigrant family through the eyes of second brother, third brother and only sister. It follows many aspects of Chinese tradition, such as superstition, while touching upon the war between China and Japan.


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Aug 06, 2008
  • pie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I die soon!

Aug 05, 2008
  • pie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I die soon!


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