Love and Other Moods

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Shanghai: a fast-paced, modern city with a long history. It’s here that Naomi’s story not only unfolds but also intertwines with those of many other adults still finding their way forward in the world. The book is an ambitious one, taking multiple strands of multiple lives and tying them together into one cohesive narrative.

For the most part, it works.

The book opens with Naomi at her friend Joss’s wedding. The wedding is beautifully described, as fits a joyous occasion, but Naomi’s personal life casts a pall on her enjoyment. She recently found out her fiancé has been cheating on her, throwing her whole future onto a different track than she had planned. Joss, too, finds herself struggling to keep her life on the path she wants rather than giving up her career to have the babies her mother-in-law is so eager for her to have. A few chapters later, in sweeps Dante, a Chinese man raised in England, now returning to his homeland. His chance encounter with Naomi turns into a second meeting, then an extended, uncertain relationship.

At its best, Love and Other Moods is a lyrical slice of life of a city too little represented in Western media. Lee has a knack for stringing words together so that you feel as though you’re reading a song rather than a book. I could feel the vibrancy and life pulsing through Shanghai on every page, even if Naomi and her friends only make up a small part of life in that city. They are not the whole, but then, with such a large population, nothing can be. They are, instead, a window into one part of a large house.

Unfortunately, Lee’s lyrical prose doesn’t serve every part of the novel. Some scenes are more dramatic and intense than meditative or illustrative, and in those, I felt a disconnect from the characters. It was harder for me to empathize with them in moments of intense distress than in happy times, or times when they were in quieter pain. These scenes are rare in the novel but occur often enough to make them worth mentioning.

On the whole, Love and Other Moods is a beautiful book and one I greatly enjoyed losing myself in. In her acknowledgments, Lee says the book is a love letter to Shanghai, where she herself lived for many years, and it shows on every page. When you read it, you too will find yourself falling in love with the city.

Reviewed By:

Author Crystal Z. Lee
Star Count /5
Format eBook
Page Count 324 pages
Publisher Balestier Press
Publish Date 08-Dec-2020
ISBN 9781250317315 Buy this Book
Issue April 2021
Category Modern Literature


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