The Flower Net

The Flower Net Author : Lisa See
Country : Australia

The terminal was hardly an advertisement for the newly affluent society [David Stark had] been led to expect …. Instead, as he followed Beth down the bleak hallway and into a cavernous room, he saw numerous soldiers in drab uniforms, old women with kerchiefs on their heads sitting together and gossiping, and exhausted travellers nervously clutching bags and passports. A layer of dirt coated everything and the smell of cigarettes and noodles hung in the air. But what struck David most was the cold; he could see his breath even inside. (See 1997: 63)

In Lisa See’s The Flower Net, the Chinese and American governments agree to work together to solve a case that involves the U.S. triads, corrupt Beijing politicians, illegal immigration, and the bear bile trade. Consequently, the investigation takes place in both China and the United States, allowing the reader to note the differences between them. Whereas Beijing is a haze of chaos, noise, pollution, desolation, injustice, and corruption, Los Angeles is a safe haven where “the weather … [is] a perfect seventy-five degrees…. The sun [shines]. The sky [is] cloudless, the air clear” (See 1997: 148). “Bright shocks of magenta, pink, red and orange bougainvillea” (See 1997: 148) cover trellises of houses and office buildings. “The wild purple of morning glory” spreads across “the occasional garage or vacant lot” (See 1997: 148). On the San Diego Freeway, a great variety and quantity of cars sweep through “without honking or abrupt swerves—along the wide, clean stretch of asphalt” (See 1997: 148). The walkway near the old Venice Pavilion is alive with an orderly, colorful crowd of “rappers, bums, girls in thong bikinis on roller skates, teenage boys hot-dogging on their bikes” (See 1997: 158). In this paradise of balmy weather, carefree people, voluptuous girls, and lush Spanish-style villas—as Los Angeles is pictured in the novel—the investigation moves forward with the help of “charts and … support staff,” so that officers can “cast a flower net and trap anyone or anything that lays within its reach” (See 1997: 156). Justice proceeds with search warrants and rules of evidence, unlike in Beijing, where courthouses are “typically cold,” the air smells of “cigarette smoke and … fear” and death or labor camp sentences for crimes such as bank robberies or housebreaking are “meted out with amazing dispatch by a panel of three judges in military uniforms” (See 1997: 229). Unsurprisingly, this explains why the Chinese protagonist, Liu Hulan, does not practice law in Beijing in spite of her training. It also explains the reluctance of Peter San, Hulan’s partner, to go back to China, since “[i]t is difficult for a snake to go back to hell once it has tasted heaven” (See 1997: 162). And, although the United States, as presented in The Flower Net, is characterized by certain shortcomings, especially in the living conditions and treatment of its immigrants by authorities, the overall impression remains that the United States is better by comparison. After all, “there are a lot of people in China who’d like to get out, and… not just dissidents” (See 1997: 241).

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