Bittersweet by Leslie Li




Bittersweet is a compelling first novel about love, war, family and one woman’s life of great hardship and even greater triumph.

From the last days of the warlords to the tragedy of Tiananmen Square, it is in essence the 100-year odyssey of Bittersweet, a headstrong peasant woman who rises from poverty and endures abandonment, patriarchy, and revolution as the wife of the second most powerful man in China. This gripping story was inspired by the lives of the author’s grandfather, the first democratically elected Vice President of China and subsequently acting president, and her grandmother, a woman you won’t soon forget.

Unmarried at nineteen and tormented by her jealous sister-in-law, Bittersweet defies custom and arranges her own marriage to an officer in China’s newly formed republican army, whose favorable destiny, a soothsayer insists, matches Bittersweet’s own. As her husband Delin’s star rises with victory in battle, Bittersweet’s star ascends along with it, and when she gives birth to their son her position is assured.

But while her husband fights enemies on the battlefield, and the deception of his envious commander-in-chief, Chiang Kai-shek, uncertainty of a different stripe intrudes upon Bittersweet’s already unsettled life in the form of Dejie, her husband’s beautiful and arrogant concubine. By skillfully employing the very rules that men have devised to justify their own privileges, Bittersweet gains authority while remaining the picture of a dutiful and obedient wife. She has a single ambition – to see her family safe and together again.

Masterfully written in a subtle yet engaging style, this epic story will hold you spellbound from beginning to end.

About the author:
Leslie Li was born in New York City of Chinese and Polish parents and grew up in China, Hong Kong, Europe and the United States. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in English, she has written travel and feature articles for a number of American and East Asian publications. She divides her time between New York and Vermont.