The Examination By Malcolm Bosse Essay

 Bosse (Deep Dream of the Rain Forest, 1993, etc.) continues his series of vivid works of historical fiction in this story of two brothers traveling across Ming Dynasty China to pursue their destinies. Lao Chen is a young Confucian scholar headed for the ultimate glory of the palace examination and top-level civil service; Lao Hong, loyal and worldly younger brother, is determined to escort Chen to Beijing and the highest honors. Through his cunning, Hong acquires enough money to get the two brothers to Chengdu for the provincial examination, which Chen passes easily. From there they must travel the long and treacherous road to Beijing--over the Yellow River, through drought- plagued provinces--for the next stage of the test. In addition, each brother is carrying a secret missive--Chen's from his teacher for an ostracized inventor, and Hong's from one member of the subversive White Lotus society to another. The brothers are separated when their junk is captured by pirates, who discover Hong's letter and torture him to discover its meaning, but Hong escapes, finds Chen, and the brothers continue on their way. When Chen passes the municipal and then the palace examination, his future is secure, and Hong is finally free to seek his own fortune through a career in the military. Bosse renders a graphic picture of 16th-century China- -its violence, ceremony, scholarship, and strict class order--in this stimulating and timeless story. (Fiction. YA)

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The Examination

Malcolm Bosse, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $18 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-32234-2
Bosse's (Captives of Time; Deep Dream of the Rain Forest) latest offering excels as both fiction and history, telling a moving tale of fraternal love and courage as it reveals a wealth of insights into the traditions and politics of medieval China. Set in the 16th century, the story revolves around two brothers, Hong and Chen. The studious Chen must travel from the family's tiny Sichuan village to Beijing and the Forbidden City, having earned the right to participate in the palace examination of the kingdom's most learned scholars. Hong, the more practical brother, elects himself guardian and companion for the trip. While Chen struggles with the difficult exams, Hong joins a secret society dedicated to overthrowing the Ming dynasty. Performing several dangerous missions for the group, Hong discovers his calling as a soldier and adventurer. A pirate attack, several brief flirtations and a stint with an imaginative inventor are just a few of the many stirring episodes. Bosse memorably conveys the workings of a culture that balances the needs for both military and scholarly institutions, and his detailed descriptions of the rivers and cities of China have a visceral impact. Moreover, he allows the closeness between the two brothers to unfold over the course of the narrative, illustrating that difficulties and struggles are an integral part of human growth. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
Prebound-Sewn - 296 pages - 978-0-7807-8520-5
Prebound-Other - 296 pages - 978-0-613-02487-7

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