Chinese Cinderella

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Adeline Yen Mah’s novel Chinese Cinderella is an autobiographical novel about ‘the secret story of an unwanted daughter.’ The novel is memorable because the story is intriguing and it is also historical as it depicts the chaos of China in the early 1940s. The novel is also remarkable for its strong depiction of characters.

The novel is based on a girl called Adeline who is neglected and unloved by her family members. There are few people who love her. Adeline’s family considers her bad luck because they believe she killed her mother. “Big Sister [tells] me, ‘...Mama died giving birth to you. If you had not been born, Mama would still be alive. She died because of you. You are bad luck.” (Yen Mah, 1999:3). Chinese Cinderella is the story of Adeline’s struggle for acceptance and how she overcomes the odds to prove she is worth a chance. She does this by excelling in her studies at school. She is born the fifth child to a wealthy Chinese family where her life began tragically due to her mother’s death. She then struggles to find a place where she feels she belongs. With no love given from her parents, she finds a special relationship with her grandfather and Aunt Baba, who she is later separated from. She is then sent to a convent boarding school in Tianjin where the communists enter under their leader Mao Ze-Dong. Soon she is the only child left in the convent due to communism. After many months she is collected by Aunt Reine Schilling who is Niang’s sister. “Adeline!’ she smiled and greeted me in English. ‘...Do you remember me? I am Aunt Reine Schilling, your Niang’s older sister.’... ‘Come here! Don’t be afraid! ...” (Yen Mah, 1999:154). Adeline was then taken to Hong Kong.

The characters in Chinese Cinderella are portrayed very well. Every character is three dimensional. The horror of Adeline’s life is depicted vividly in the novel. The characters in this novel vary in personalities. The aspect of the story that impacts on the reader is the terrible...
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