Roy Peachey’s novel is a poignant tale of idealism and disillusionment in the landscape of World War I. His central character, Wang Weijun, grows up in a Chinese family of privilege. Despite a childhood accident that destroyed his eye, Wang dreams of traveling to Europe to experience the world of Shakespeare’s dramas. A devoted scholar, he hopes his education will help him lead China out of its colonial status.
What he finds as a translator for the Chinese Labor Corps is a Europe of misery and death. His countrymen have contracted to make machinery and ammunition for soldiers fighting the Germans. In the grim realities of war, Wang finds himself torn between his duty and his conscience.
Between Darkness and Light is also a love story involving Wang, a rebellious fellow countryman, and a tender-hearted Frenchwoman. As soldiers and laborers descend into nameless gravesites on the battlefield, these relationships become pivotal in Wang’s struggle to endure the horrors of warfare.
The author has obviously used historical accounts to weave a masterful tale of Western exploitation of Asian people. His book is enlightening and personally involving from start to finish. I wish I could give it a higher rating, but Peachey’s excessive reliance on offensive language forces me to limit it to three stars.