I had a late lunch date with a friend who's in town for a couple of weeks; I assumed she'd be late ('cos she usually is), so I dived into the library on the way and pulled a book off the Readers' Picks shelf. Just in case she was half an hour late or something.
The book was The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. The title sounded familiar, like maybe it was prize-winningly famous or something. And I am often drawn to stories set in Chinese environments. (I can never quite relate to domestic tales about middle-class white people).
But I just had a look at a couple of Amazon reviews, and I realise now that I've probably chosen a typically depressing Chinese story. Let me give you an idea of how depressing it's gonna be: the hero is a poor farmer who wants to marry and produce an heir. The only way he can afford to marry a virgin is by purchasing a very ugly slave girl from a wealthy landowner, because all the pretty ones have already been "had" by men in the landowner's family. So he does. And apparently somewhere along the line this wife ends up killing her newborn daughter in order for her other children to live.
Is it really that hard to write a story set in China which has a happy ending?