If there is any truth to the postulate that a culture is reflected in its art, then I thought surely a collection of Chinese “fairy tales” would offer some fascinating insights into Chinese culture. It’s true that I learned something from this collection of short stories, but I’m not sure what it is yet.
Unlike many other history books, which look at grand, sweeping ideas and focus on facts, dates, statistics, and artifacts, Brook presents major portions of Chinese history through the lens of narratives, sort of like miniature biographies. Each chapter focuses on a different individual of whom we have a record and who can be used to explain and demonstrate the evolution of China in that time period. This format helps keep the book from falling into the trap of many other nonfiction works I have read recently, where the first 1/3rd to 1/2 of the book is interesting, and the remainder is repetitive.