A family saga spanning fifty years and three generations, which takes the reader from the France of the Golden Age to poverty-stricken post-war Shanghai via the re-imagined rural China of the Cultural Revolution. Ah-Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai, share a rare bond.
Maybe because Ah-Mei is the only girl grandchild, or maybe because the pair look so alike - and because neither look much like the rest of their Chinese family.
Politics and war make 1960s Shanghai a hard place to grow up, especially when racism and bigotry are rife, and everyone is suspicious of Nainai's European heritage.
Ah-Mei and her family suffer much in this time of political upheaval, and when the family silk business falters, they are left with almost nothing.
But Ah-Mei and her grandmother are resourceful, and they have one another - and the tenderness they share brings them great strength.