River East, River West

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Pub Date 25 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 14 Dec 2023

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A mesmerising reversal of the east–west immigrant narrative set against China’s economic boom, River East, River West is a deeply moving exploration of race, identity and family, of capitalism’s false promise and private dreams. 

Shanghai, 2007: feeling betrayed by her American mother’s engagement to their rich landlord Lu Fang, fourteen-year-old Alva begins plotting her escape. But the exclusive American School – a potential ticket out – is not what she imagined.

Qingdao, 1985: newlywed Lu Fang works as a lowly shipping clerk. Though he aspires to a bright future, he is one of many casualties of harsh political reforms. Then China opens up to foreigners and capital, and Lu Fang meets a woman who makes him question what he should settle for...

A mesmerising reversal of the east–west immigrant narrative set against China’s economic boom, River East, River West is a deeply moving exploration of race, identity and family, of capitalism’s...

Advance Praise

'A searing and intimate exploration of both China and the American Dream. Poignant and propulsive, thoughtful and moving. I loved this book' – Jean Kwok, bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee

'Aube Rey Lescure’s beautiful debut makes us feel the inexhaustible mystery of other lives. A moving portrait of the love between a mother and daughter, River East, River West portrays, too, the powerlessness of our loves against the riptides of history' – Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness

'A keen exploration of love, heritage and the search for home, told through alternating points of view – rebellious Alva and her stepfather Lu Fang with secrets of his own. Aube Rey Lescure’s portrayal of the glitter and grit of China’s tumultuous economic rise is by turns luminous and searing. A haunting debut' – Vanessa Hua, bestselling author of Forbidden City

'A beautifully expansive tale of new beginnings – and the pasts we can't extricate ourselves from' – Thao Thai, author of Banyan Moon

'A searing and intimate exploration of both China and the American Dream. Poignant and propulsive, thoughtful and moving. I loved this book' – Jean Kwok, bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee


Marketing Plan

  • A dazzling new voice, already acclaimed by high-profile writers – to compare to Cecile Pin, Ocean Vuong or Emma Cline
  • A unique insider-outsider perspective on family life in modern China
  • Significant international campaign: widespread media coverage and author features expected
  • A dazzling new voice, already acclaimed by high-profile writers – to compare to Cecile Pin, Ocean Vuong or Emma Cline
  • A unique insider-outsider perspective on family life in modern China
  • Significant...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780715655399
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)
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Average rating from 17 members

Featured Reviews

A dual narration, set in China in the 80s and end of the Noughties. A teenage girl and a shipping clerk, connected by a blond woman. Family drama and sharp observation of belonging and the American dream. Well worth a read!

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A mixed Chinese American teenage girl living in China. Very interesting and I could definitely relate to this very mixed up girl. Wanting to be more western but actually relating more to her Chinese friends and neighbourhood. We also hear about Lu Fang who marries Alva’s mother about his early life and then his business success. It’s a pacy read and very enjoyable and I learned a lot about Chinese society

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though are parts that are really quite hard to digest.

The story of Sloan, her daughter Alva and Lu Fang is set in Shanghai and moves easily between time frames and points of view. The cast of characters is quite small so easy to keep up with who's who and the timeline.

The story is ostensibly set at the point of Alva being 15 in 2008. She is rebelling against the party school she attends with its strict regime and lack of freedom. She longs to go to the American School, she wants her mother as partner back again and she wants her mother's husband, Lu Fang gone.

As the story develops we get Sloan and Lu Fang's backstory as well as following Alva as she negotiates her teen years, making new friends, whilst dealing with alcohol, sex and loss.

This story draws you in gently but there are shocks in store along the way. The writing was beautiful and I felt utterly invested in each of the characters with all their flaws. There are some heartbreakingly beautiful moments that had me in tears but equally parts that were shockingly stark. Aube Rey Lescure deals with emotions very skilfully. Very impressive work. A pleasure to immerse myself in this world.

I think this is a debut novel. I'd certainly keep an eye out for more work by this author. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Duckworth Books for the advance review copy.

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River East, River West by Aube Rey Lescure is a devastating story of human beings who are essentially pawns of the bigger machinery that runs the system—local and global econopolitics. But reading it, we realise that they still have the power to adapt if they are ready to stand together as a unit, accepting each other.

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This story is told largely from the POV of teenaged Alva, who dislikes going to her propaganda-influenced school and longs to study at the American School instead. Alongside this, she is also struggling with her mother's relationship with wealthy Lu Fang, who a couple of decades ago was a mere shipping clerk.

Alva is a biracial child, part Chinese and part Caucasian, with an American mother, Sloan. While she aspires to be western, her closest affinities are with her Chinese friends and surroundings. As a result, she struggles with identity issues.

The reader is also given insights into the lives of Lu Fang and Alva's mother Sloan, and their journey to the point at which they now stand.

This is an interesting book and an easy read that allows a glimpse into Chinese life and society through the lives of these three protagonists, and reaffirms the universal struggles of dreams, aspirations and identity.

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The protagonist, a mixed Chinese-American teenage girl, unfolds her captivating narrative within the vibrant backdrop of China. Her intricate journey resonates with the complexities of identity, navigating the challenges of straddling two cultures. While the girl harbours a desire to embrace Western influences, she finds herself more connected to her Chinese friends and neighbourhood, unveiling the universal struggle of self-discovery.

The story also unveils the life of Lu Fang, who becomes an integral figure by marrying the girl's mother. Through his tale, the narrative delves into his early life and eventual business success, adding depth and context to the overarching storyline. The brisk pace of the narrative makes it an engaging and enjoyable read, offering insights into the intricacies of Chinese society and providing readers with a valuable opportunity to learn more about the cultural nuances and dynamics at play.

The E-Book could be improved and more user-friendly, such as links to the chapters, no significant gaps between words and a cover for the book would be better. It is very document-like instead of a book. A star has been deducted because of this.

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and I would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

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Thank you NetGalley and Duckworth Books for this eCopy to review

River East, River West is a dual timeline and narrator novel which I found very well done as you learn the history of Lu Fang and Sloan even though Sloan's daughter Alva is unaware of any past linking her American mother to her new Chinese step-father.

Unable to stand the propaganda taught at her Chinese school and the bullying for being not properly Chinese Alva conspires to get Lu Fang to pay for her to go to the American International School. What follows is a fascinating insight into how Alva finds her own identity within 2 competing cultures.

This is a great family drama with well developed characters, the plot moves along nicely and the settings are well depicted

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I really loved this book! Thank you to NetGalley and Duckworth Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This story was heartfelt and contained so much but most importantly it revealed many things about Chinese society that I would never have learned otherwise. It also contained so much more about life straddling cultures, whether as an immigrant or person of mixed race.
The balance of views of cultural and familial roles was near perfect. I’m eager to see what this author writes next and highly recommend this debut.

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tI horoughly enjoyed reading this book. It gave me new insights into China through the experiences of the three main characters. The authors choice of main characters worked so well. Sloan,a white American trying to make a living teaching English.. her daughter Alva as a teenager whose Chinese father is an unknown individual and Lu Fang a man we meet as a boy and experience so many changes in China through his eyes.It is beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. I was so sorry to finish it.

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Part coming of age story, part social commentary , part family drama- all the ingredients for my favourite type of novel. I really enjoyed this book told from two perspectives and two timelines.

China fascinates me, its culture and and rapid development in recent decades in particular so I loved the timelines in this one ( set in the 80s and the late noughties) and I liked the originality of this being an west to east immigrant story.

The book tells the story of 14 year old Alva, her American mother Sloane and her mothers partner Lu Fang. Each character is developed really well , it took a while to warm up to them but I was wholly invested in them as the book went on. Well there is lot of bleakness within, Lescure has a beautiful writing style which made the darker themes easier to read.

This is one I would recommend sticking with , the writing kept me engaged until the story began to grip me about a third of the way in. I would say this would also be a super audiobook.

A fresh original read from this debut novelist. I'm looking forward to her next book.

4 stars.

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This is the story of Sloan, an American woman living in Shanghai, China, and Lu Fang, a Chinese man who becomes her husband. The story is told by Alva, Sloan's Chinese/American daughter, and Lu Fang.
Once Sloan gets married to Lu Fang, Alva wants to mix more with the American ex-pats in Shanghai which causes a rift in the family. I felt so sorry for Lu Fang, his life was changed by the Chinese cultural revolution, then he was a dutiful son and husband. He tried so hard to please everyone else at the expense of his own happiness. Very moving.

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