Crimson China

by Betsy Tobin

  • Published: 06 Jan 2011
  • Price: £7.99
  • Format: Paperback
  • Format: Ebook
  • Extent: 320p
  • ISBN: 9781907595226
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  • Buy it now from Waterstones

“He glances over at her. Her shoulder length brown hair is matted with wet against the sides of her face, and there are dark circles under her eyes. He is uncertain of her age. Not young, he decides. Thirty? Forty? He finds it impossible to judge with foreigners. Her clothes are ordinary enough: jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a dark green pullover that now smells of wet wool. The enormous coat she was wearing lies in a sodden ball on the floor of the back seat. It was the coat he noticed first when she dragged him from the water: made of heavy black wool, it stretched down below her knees and was buttoned up to the neck. No one in their right mind would attempt to rescue a drowning man in such a coat…”

On a freezing night in February, a woman wades into the waters of Morecambe Bay in a drunken bid to commit suicide. Braced for death, she finds herself instead saving a man’s life—a young Chinese cockle picker, one of the only survivors of a tragic mass drowning. For Wen—now missing, presumed dead—Angie provides an unexpected sanctuary. They share neither language nor experience, but she agrees to let him stay with her and ‘disappear’. Within a short time their unlikely pairing blossoms into something darkly passionate.
But Wen’s past soon catches up with him. He is still in debt to the snakeheads who brought him out of China. And when his sister, Lili, travels to Britain in search of his memory, she unwittingly seals his fate.

Crimson China is a novel that traps the reader at the outset, shining a light on a tragic, hidden world that runs in parallel to our own. It is a story of identity and culture, of the irrepressibility of the human spirit, and the powerful undertow of love.

Crimson China… is fast becoming Tobin’s break out novel. – Evening Standard

Crimson China…is deftly conveyed, at a rattling pace that keeps the pages turning. The author’s evident sympathy for her characters and their dilemmas, together with some sharply observed detail, gives warmth and depth to this entertaining tale of crossed cultures. – The Times

A dark dramatic story, told with admirable realism and restraint. Unforgettable. – Sue Gee

This satisfying novel imagines the life of Wen, a survivor from the tragic drowning of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004, who is saved by Angie… Through their eyes we see a Britain inhospitable to foreigners, a promised land both plentiful and heartless, and a corrupt hidden economy. – The Sunday Times

Tobin knows how to spin a tale and keep the pages turning. She captures the sense of alienation felt by her characters, and the quiet desperation of an invisible underclass…Crimson China is a sensitive and successful evocation of loneliness and displacement: a study of profound loss ultimately redeemed by the mundane reality of a bungalow in Morecambe. – Independent

This fine novel grows in pace and power, propelled not only by its social conscience but also a vividly drawn cast and a gradually building sense of jeopardy as the snakeheads close in. – Daily Mail

Tobin coaxes these damaged lives into alignment, cutting between points of view with great skill and sensitivity. At times unbearably tense, Crimson China has lots to say about the trade-off between need and exploitation, and the way love can erode cultural difference – Guardian

Tobin seamlessly incorporates documentary material into the story. This gripping study of loss and redemption is also an authentic portrait of an invisible underclass. – Financial Times

Tobin ingeniously manages to portray events with a tragic realism that doesn’t call for theatrics. Instead there is a deep-rooted emotion here that doesn’t require fireworks, rather it is an aching throb that seeps through… A captivating novel. – Book Caterpiller

About Betsy Tobin

Betsy Tobin was born in the American Midwest and moved to England in 1989. She is the author of two other novels, Bone House and The Bounce. She lives in London with her husband and four children.