The Song of Everlasting Sorrow follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai's working-class neighborhoods. Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. After the Communist victory, Wang Qiyao continues to indulge in the decadent pleasures of the Shanghai bourgeoisie, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist campaign and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. She reemerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of "old Shanghai," only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the Hollywood noirs of her youth.
…[an] extraordinary novel …it is Wang Anyi's complex and penetrating portrayal of her heroine that best displays her gifts as a novelist. Michael Berry and Susan Chang Egan's graceful translation…helps us understand why Wang Anyi is one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the Chinese-speaking world…The novel is particularly illuminating and incisive on the subject of female friendship, on what draws girls and women together and then drives them apart.