Book Review: Lust, Caution and Other Stories

Lust, caution and other stories
by Eileen Chang
PL2837 Zai.Lu 2007 Central Library

No lust but much caution- that’s the conclusion I came to after reading these six short stories by Eileen Chang.

The theme of love and relationships feature prominently in Chang’s work and is present in all these stories. The nebulous line between love and hate, loyalty and infidelity is examined in the context of Shanghai in the 1940s where political unrest and war permeate every facet of daily life.

There is a deliberate sense of restrain in Chang’s stories and this arises from her characters’ inability to be open with each other. They are constantly engaged in a gender power struggle and in this battle that no one wins, being transparent means vulnerability to hurt.

Chang’s outlook on love is a cynical one. To her, men and women coexist in a symbiotic relationship that is sometimes tainted by personal imperfections but more often, by societal mores. She seems to say that love is imperfect and for men and women to be together, there are many concessions to be made, especially on women’s part.

Whether one agrees with Chang’s pessimistic view of love or not, one cannot help but feel for her characters, trapped forever in a universe where pain, angst and words of love should remain unspoken.

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