Written by Sui Sin Far, (pseudonym for Edith Maud Eaton

Publisher: A. C. McClurg
Pages: 235
Genre: Short story collection, Classic
Published: 1912-01-01
Original Language: English

Mrs. Spring Fragrance was a popular short story collection by Sui Sin Far, pen name of Chinese-British-Canadian-American writer Edith Maude Eaton. The work is notable for being "the earliest book of fiction published in the United States by an author of mixed Chinese and white descent."[1] Although the stories in the collection were written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were not compiled into a single book until 1912. The original publisher was A. C. McClurg and Company of Chicago. A new scholarly edition of the book, based on the McClurg edition, was released in October 2011 by Broadview Press. The stories are divided into two halves, "Mrs. Spring Fragrance" for adults, and "Tales of Chinese Children" for children. Set in Seattle and San Francisco, they reflect the struggles and joys in the daily lives of Chinese families in North America. Particularly poignant are the stories delineating the cultural conflicts of Eurasians and recent immigrants. In "In the Land of the Free", Eaton shows the suffering inflicted by discriminatory immigration laws.

Read from 2022-09-23 to 2022-11-27
Read in English
Rating: 3.5/5
Review: Mrs. Spring Fragrance is a short story collection consisting of stories taking place mostly within Chinese communities in the US (seemingly around the Seattle area). Most of the book consists of short stories which are very much for adults, with a few short stories for children toward the end.

The short stories, as a whole, can be described as rather dark. The overarching theme is that of a clash between those who grow up in or moved to the US, taking on the culture and values you’d associate with the US (mostly women), and those who live their lives in the Chinese community of the US in what they see as the traditional Chinese way of life (mostly men). I don’t know to what extent the attitudes depicted are accurate - but I expect they are based on the lived experience of the author. Fortunately, these stories were written over 100 years ago, so I’d expect a lot to have changed since then. The stories mostly revolve around men with a possessive attitude toward their wives, and the ladies they want as their wives, and the stories just get darker and darker. Occasionally, I almost laughed out loud at the creativity with which a story which was always going to end badly ended up badly in a different, unexpected way.

Despite the thematic darkness of the main short stories, the stories for children are lovely! The general theme is that of “the greatest rewards and happiness come from making others happy”, and they follow a nice line of being fairytale-like while still not being entirely predictable.

Overall Mrs. Spring Fragrance was an interesting collection to read. Some stories are weaker than others, but at least half of them pack a proper punch.