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A posthumous novel by Dr Tsewang Yishey Pemba, the founding father of Tibetan-English literature, White Crane, Lend me your Wings is a historical fiction set in the breathtakingly beautiful Nyarong Valley of the Kham province of Eastern Tibet in the first half of the twentieth century. Dr Pemba skillfully weaves a dazzling tapestry of individual lives and sweeping events creating an epic vision of a country and people during a time of tremendous upheaval. The novel begins with a never-told-before story of a failed Christian mission in Tibet and takes one into the heartland of Eastern Tibet by capturing the zeitgeist of the fierce warrior tribe of Khampas ruled by chieftains. This coming-of-age narrative is a riveting tale of vengeance, warfare and love unfolded through the life story of two young boys and their family and friends. The personal drama gets embroiled in a national catastrophe as China invades Tibet forcing it out of its isolation. Ultimately, the novel delves into themes such as tradition versus modernity, individual choice and freedom, the nature of governance, the role of religion in people’s lives, the inevitability of change and the importance of human values such as loyalty and compassion.
A story that feels intensely personal, yet universal in its themes and humanness, riveting is the word that readily springs to mind when describing White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings. With all the elements of a great epic Tsewang Yishey Pemba’s tale is full of powerfully emotive images and the reward for his readers is a period novel that feels powerfully authentic to its time and place. One that certainly demands a slow read to fully appreciate the stylistically beguiling words that Pemba weaves as he effortlessly captures the cultural identity of his setting. With the shadow of pending conflict and the evolving turmoil of war it is a sobering read at times and yet refreshingly devoid of trite commentary and on this level, it not only entertains but enlightens, a feat to which many authors might aspire and few notably achieve. More importantly, in presenting us with sympathetic characters Pemba reminds us that love and passion have important roles to play in forging a person's destiny and moral consciousness.
Rich in detail, original and persuasive White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings: A Tibetan Tale of Love and War proves a genuine literary gem and is recommended without reservation.
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