The Porcelain Moon

Written by Janie Chang
Review by Lorelei R. Brush

This elegantly written novel follows the travails of two young women in France as the country is torn by World War I. Pauline is Chinese and is in France with her cousin Theo to support the family’s porcelain trade. When the family arranges a marriage she is desperate to avoid, she sneaks out of Paris to obtain Theo’s help. He is a volunteer with the Chinese Labour Corps in France as a translator. In her search for Theo, Pauline finds refuge with Camille, a Frenchwoman married to an abusive man. The two women become friends, each one discovering bit by bit the pain the other is hiding.

The Porcelain Moon skillfully draws the reader into the intense feelings of each character as they plan their escapes from the shackles that trap them. We eagerly follow the developing comradeship of the women, experience the love among the main characters, and applaud their developing bonds as a new family.

The rich descriptions of the settings in the story enliven each page: the darkness of Paris in wartime, the exquisite porcelain on display in the family’s store, the muddy trenches on the front lines in which bodies are entrapped, and Camille’s small cottage filled with anger and fear. And in the unfurling of the story, we learn about a little-known aspect of World War I, the critical role of Chinese workers in supporting France in this war.