The China Coin
By Allan Baillie
The writer researched the background for this novel while travelling through China in 1989 and was in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square events. The novel's historical context is centred on student protesters who were joined by ever increasing popular support and wanted democratic reforms and an end t o systemic corruption or 'guan xi'. The occupation of Tiananmen Square in Beijing by thousands o f students was seen s as a direct challenge to the ruling Communist government. I t led t o a swift response, with hundreds of students being killed by troops, in what Western countries now call the Tiananmen Square massacre.
W hat is t he t ext about?
The narrative focuses on a Eurasian teenager named Leah, who travels t o China with her mother Joan in search o f the other half o f a broken coin, which Joan's father sent her before he died. I t is the only connection they have with their lost family in China. I n searching for the other half o f the coin they discover not only their extended family b ut also the.ir extensive family history. This ultimately gives them a sense o f their Chinese identity and belonging and this brings a positive change in both o f them. Initially, Leah's unwillingness t o travel to China is shown in her attitude towards her mother and China. This is mainly due to the resentment she feels towards her mother for taking her to China so quickly after her father's death. However, as the two travel together they begin to understand more about themselves, their relationship with each other and their sense o f belonging t o an extended family in China. Through the many experiences they share, Leah matures and gains a deeper knowledge o f China, its history and people and the political situation at the time in 1989. The description o f their travels to actual places - villages, towns and cities - creates realism in the novel. Joan likewise learns t o trust Leah,...