Welcome to the last stop on the In a Land of Paper Gods blog tour!
About the book:
Published: 28th July 2016 (Tinder Press)
Jiangxi Province, China, 1941
Atop the fabled mountain of Lushan, celebrated for its temples, capricious mists and plunging ravines, perches a boarding school for the children of British missionaries. As her parents pursue their calling to bring the gospel to China’s most remote provinces, ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson discovers that she has been singled out for a divine calling of her own.
Etta is quick to share the news with her dorm mates, and soon even Big Bum Eileen is enlisted in the Prophetess Club, which busies itself looking for signs of the Lord’s intent. (Hark.) As rumours of war grow more insistent, so the girls’ quest takes on a new urgency – and in such a mystical landscape, the prophetesses find that lines between make believe and reality, good and bad, become dangerously blurred. So Etta’s pilgrimage begins.
A story of a child far from home and caught between two cultures, In A Land of Paper Gods marries exuberant imagination with sharp pathos, and introduces Rebecca Mackenzie as a striking and original new voice.
Historical literary fiction is not usually a genre I choose however the premise of this book as well as its title intrigued me enough to give it a go – and I am pleased that I did. The prose of this book is beautiful sharing both the innocence of youth as well as the horrors of the war that they are living through.
Set in Jiangxi Province in the 1940’s, Henrietta (Etta) and the missionary children are living through the Second Sino-Japanese War. Etta and her friends are away from their parents who are continuing their vocation as missionaries whilst their children are being looked after in essentially a boarding school far away from their native countries.
Whilst occasionally an adult voice leads the narrative through snippets from a diary, In a Land of Paper Gods is told mainly from Etta’s perspective with wonderful effect; the innocence of the children comes through along with the feelings of loneliness and abandonment by their parents.
Religion is a strong influence on their everyday lives with strict expectations of behaviour. Etta is rebelling against this a retreats into a world that treads a fine line between reality and make-believe. Etta feels that God speaks to her and therefore creates the Prophetess Club and disobeys rules in search for prophecies. Most of the girls quickly become disillusioned by this club when baptism classes commence – unfortunately Etta is not involved therefore follows her own path and meeting a young Chinese girl in the ‘out-of-bounds’ areas of the school grounds.
Due to its setting, subject, wonderful narrative and imagery, In a Land of Paper Gods is one book that you can certainly lose yourself in and be transported to another time and place.
Thank you to Tinder Press for my ARC of the book.
About the author (courtesy of www.rebeccamackenzie.com)
The daughter of missionaries, I grew up in 1980s Bangkok, the Malaysian jungle and the tea hills of southern India, before returning to Scotland to complete my education. At seventeen, I moved to London to study Religion, History and Thai at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Some of the writers who have influenced me are Marilynne Robinson, Marguerite Duras, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Arundhati Roy and Franz Kafka.
I love to step into the unknown and discover, whether that be in writing or being on stage. I regularly perform solo improvisation, fusing language, imagination, movement and the moment.
My movement training comes from a decade of Japanese martial arts and my performance influences include butoh artist Kazuo Ohno, choreographer Pina Bausch and Alice Oswald’s recitations.
I live at the top of a vicarage in East London.