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Book Review: ‘The Palest Ink,’ A Historical Fiction by Kay Bratt

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palest inkTimes of turmoil often breed courage and valor. In The Palest Ink by Kay Bratt, we are thrust into a story of the Cultural Revolution supported by Chairman Mao. As his Red Guard begins a deadly assault on their people, leaving many innocent victims in their wake, there are those who believe they can create their own mark on history through the opportunity presented by rebellion.

Benfu is a young man, worried more about his career as a violinist and an arranged marriage that he wants no part of, then the possibility of revolution. His family are intellectuals and teach in Shanghai. They know of the histories and the possibilities of the coming surge and how they must now begin to hide valuables and change in order to stay under the radar of those hunting for possible rebellion. They also understand how often the innocent can be targeted, and history supports the dangers inherent in the coming wave of assault.

Pony Boy, a member of the lower class, is Benfu’s best friend. Their futures are very different and they look at life in different ways. Amidst the political turmoil, they both must make decisions that can affect themselves and their family. Thrown together in the chaos of revolution, they begin their own mission and rebellion against the tide of Mao’s Red Guard.

Can they find a way to make their mark on history? Life moves quickly for both, and the tide turns ever more sharply for their own families. Will they continue on their quest, or is all lost for themselves and their families.

Bratt has given us characters that begin in loving homes, Benfu, ready for university, and in the tradition of the country soon to be engaged. His best friend has a harder life, yet in both cases their innocence shines through. As the darkening of revolution begins it changes them and they both have to find a way to grow and live in the chaos created in the wave of danger and deaths. Bratt has given us a time of turmoil and has allowed us to watch the growth of these two youths into entirely different people from where they started.

The Revolution itself is well documented and the historical significance of Chairman Mao’s Red Guard leaves fear in its wake. The danger and fear that come through the writing create discomfort and unrest, much as it must have been during the times. The danger is palpable, and adds to the chaotic feelings left after the reading of this work.

If you enjoy history, revolution, courage, romance and family, then this will make a great work for your library. Kay Bratt has given us a work of intensity.

This would be a great work for a reading group with an amazing array of information for discussion.

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About Leslie Wright

Leslie Wright is an author and blogger in the Northwest.