Brushstrokes in Time Paperback – 6 Jan 2016
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‘Weaving real events and Stars artists (including Ai WeiWei) with the fictional, this moving story shines a light on the internal workings of China and gives us an engaging heroine who rises above oppression to discover love, hope and success.’ Frank Sieren, Asia Expert
‘Moving but never mawkish... A deeply informed portrayal of the little-known but important Stars Arts Movement.’ Prof Maria Jaschok, Oxford University
About the Author
Freelance writer, author and speaker, Sylvia Vetta took up writing and broadcasting on art and antiques in 1998 when she began writing features for the award winning magazine of The Oxford Times. She went on to write for four magazines on art, history and science-related events. Sylvia Vetta has a lifelong passion for China. Her extensive interviews with Stars art movement founder, Qu Leilei, inspired her to write Brushstrokes in Time. Her long-running profile series, Oxford Castaways, has been compiled into two books. Reflecting her interest in China, castaway interviewees have included Lord Patten of Barnes, the last governor of Hong Kong; Dame Jessica Rawson, the curator of prestigious exhibitions on China; Dr Maria Jaschok, who lived in China from 1979-1995; and Oxford-based artist Weimin He.
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In all, if you want to read a strong story and learn about Communist China at the same time, this is the book for you.
My only reservation is to do with the way Vetta handles the italicised 'asides' addressed by the narrator to her American teenage daughter. I thought these were sometimes a bit too long and repetitive. But that is a minor quibble.
Although Little Winter is a fictional character, I soon forgot this as I read about her life in those unpredictable times. The book starts when Little Winter is a teenager in 1962 and continues up to 2011 by which time she has moved to the USA. Her story includes the terrible events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and other atrocities, but also tells of love, adventure and happy times.
Little Winter is an artist, and through her tale the reader is given an insight into the immense bravery of the Stars Arts Movement (a real group of artists) as they try to gain back the right of freedom of expression, and stand up to the authorities so that their art can be experienced by all.
This is a mother's (Little Winter) story written for her teenage daughter - who is growing up in the very different world of the USA. Little Winter's story tells of love, fear, excitement and horror, and though this is a "faction" book, it is difficult to believe that Little Winter, and her friends, are not real people. There is a useful list at the back of the book giving brief details of the political figures mentioned in the book, plus 10 of the real Stars.
I have rated it a 4 out of 5 as I would have liked a little more factual information about what was going on politically at the time. However this a very strong and moving story, which is full of interesting details. Recommended to anyone who wants a personal insight into everyday life at that time.
Sylvia Vetta's novel offers a sweeping crane shot of Chinese culture from the early 1960s onwards and focuses specifically on the rise of the incredible - and rightly international famous - Chinese Stars group of artists. The Stars were a homegrown Chinese art movement that rocked the art world in 1979 and proved so importantly that their art could not be repressed.
The novel offers a fascinating insight into a time and place rarely visited by the West, and the incredible story of The Stars that retain their international acclaim today.