Everything Under the Sky
History is vital to this quirky thriller, which is set in 1920s China. Elvira, a Spanish painter living in Paris, travels to Shanghai with her niece, Fernanda, to cope with her late husband’s estate. What greets her are staggering debts, questions about his lifestyle and death, and a possible way out that involves a quest for the tomb of the first emperor. An adventurer at heart, Elvira teams up with the antiquarian Lao Jiang and the journalist Paddy Tichborne to seek out this tomb and the treasure it reputedly houses, but the bloodthirsty Green Gang and some other highly placed and dangerous players are eager to lay hands on the treasure as well. Do Elvira and her friends locate the ancient Chinese artifacts? You will have to read the book to find out, because to say anymore will reveal too much.
This intelligent piece of storytelling manages to pack an astounding amount of Chinese history into 400 pages – astounding because it never becomes exhausting. The references to culture, literature and legends do require some savoring but ultimately enrich the novel. I applaud Asensi’s characterization, sense of time and place, and ability to draw the reader into the story. Even some of the more fantastical elements appeared plausible when presented by her pen. Lighthearted yet heartwarming, Everything Under the Sky is a must-read for anyone interested in China.