A One-Woman Show!
A study in characterization!
A simple analysis of the book by chapter and by page.
This book is all about the journey. Faye and Dean accomplished a lot in their time together but how they did it is the important thing. They didn’t set out to change the face of Canada just to help others but along the way it happened. It is also about how Faye became a force of nature. So sit back as Faye’s bus of life rockets off into the stratosphere to parts unknown and to places you may know but may look a little different in this book due to the changing times.
There are many layers to this story. On the surface, it is the Faye and Dean Story, their life together and accomplishments, as seen through the facts. Then, it is Faye and Dean’s struggle to help their people and the little guy live a better life, depicted in the dialogue. Next, it is Faye and Dean’s efforts to help Chinatown and Vancouver prosper and contribute to Canada, also depicted in the dialogue. Finally, it is about inner voices, mind control, breaking one’s spirit, playing games, writing the script for one’s own life and making our fantasies come true as seen through the struggles of the little guy against the establishment. This is depicted through the characterization. On any given page in this book, there are always three voices present: the writer, Faye and Faye’s inner voice or conscience. Faye never does anything without first consulting her inner voice.
There is a significant amount of preamble leading up to big events in this book to show their importance to the main characters: their wedding in chapter 3, the opening paragraphs of chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 indicating their four major accomplishments in the fields of construction, finance, immigration category reform and the development of Chinatown, the sale of the Expo lands in chapter 10 and Dean’s passing in chapter 11.
In terms of character development, chapters 10 and 11 are the most intense. They rise to a double crescendo, one at the end of chapter 10 (Tiananmen Square) and an even bigger one at the end of chapter 11 (Dean’s death). They are both about breaking one’s spirit but chapter 10 is about natural causes whereas chapter 11 is about people trying to break the main character’s spirit on purpose.
Two important points in Chapter one are Yick Fung and the introduction of Faye’s extended family. It is a background chapter set in Victoria’s Chinatown before Faye and her family moved to Vancouver’s Chinatown. Yick Fung is her grandfather’s store and home where Faye and her extended family all live. Besides being a business and their home, it is a drop-in center where older Chinese come to receive help with any number of activities. Yick Fung is important because it is the model Faye uses when she opens her own store later in Vancouver and has her own house in the Oakridge area of Vancouver. They too, become a place where people come and go and Faye and Dean become known as the host and hostess with mostess. We learn all about Faye’s extended family and how each left its mark on her young mind and help develop her future character and drive.
Chapter 2 Two important things are presented to the reader in this chapter, Vancouver’s Chinatown and the beginning of Faye’s over-the-top personality. On page 59 “About all I knew…” tells us what Vancouver’s Chinatown was like in its heyday. It was the place to be in Vancouver for nightlife, good food and good times in the thirties, forties and fifties. We learn more about Faye’s immediate family namely her parents and the reason they moved to Vancouver. We learn about what life was like for a very young Faye growing up in Vancouver’s Chinatown. There was still a lot of conflict in Vancouver’s Chinatown just as there had been in Victoria’s. We learn about the war years and how they impacted the Chinese in Chinatown. We learn as well, how they impacted Faye’s extended family. Page 68 “But the war was not just….” We learn that Faye’s big personality started as a way to combat discrimination. By being good citizens they would show the establishment that they deserved to be equals in everything. To Faye, being good, meant being more prominent than the rest. Page 77 “When on stage (out in public)…” Because of who her parents were in the community she needed to be a role model as well. “I had to behave extraordinarily….” She discovered she would get more attention the more she stood out “A more prominent glow…. page 80. She is starting to be aware of her inner voices “This strikes me as marvellous….” page 80. Then, comes the big move into their own house and they leave Chinatown behind but not for long because they have too many ties. The game metaphor is introduced here “The whole world was playing games.” Page 86. Next, we learn about her family’s ties to Chang Kai Shek and loved ones in China, “All families in Chinatown…” page 87. We see events unfold in China and the rise of communism and how it affects Faye’s family.
Faye gets her first taste of high society in San Francisco near the end of this chapter and it contrasts greatly with life in Vancouver’s Chinatown for the pioneers. Then, we broaden the lens and refocus on life in Vancouver’s Chinatown for Faye and her immediate family. “Through the sunlit glass window….” page 93.
Chapter 3 This is the courtship and marriage chapter and introduces Faye’s future husband Dean. We learn how he gets his name Dean as a result of a somewhat stressful encounter at the airport upon his arrival in Vancouver and a taxi ride through the suburbs to his father’s store on West Broadway. We learn he came to town to study at UBC. He gets a part-time job teaching at a Chinese school in Chinatown and right away is very popular for many reasons. At the bottom of page 10, Faye listens again to her inner voices as she wonders if Dean is her hero, “This strikes me as marvellous…” Everyone knows everyone in Chinatown and Faye and Dean finally meet. Page 109 “We finally meet…” She continues to talk life over with her inner voice. “My ten minutes were up….” The action switches back and forth between Faye’s different social groups and everyone trying to get ahead in the workplace in Chinatown. Page 111 “The action meaning….” As they all become part of the same social group Faye finds herself being drawn closer to the Dean phenomenon. Page 113 “My whole single girl hip lifestyle….” It is about this time that they start thinking about trying to make life better for everyone in Chinatown, in short, how to get out and into the Caucasian world of Vancouver because no one has any money or future in Chinatown. They come up with a plan to unite the different social groups and hopefully motivate them all to think about a better life for the future. Gradually they grow closer and closer. Back at Faye’s house, there are lots of people coming and going because of who her parents are and she gets to meet them all and act as hostess. On page 121, Faye tries to rationalize her life, “It’s all well and fine…” They finally figure out what their plan will be to unite all their friends and motivate them to take the giant step forward in life and enter the Caucasian world, which doesn’t turn out to be quite that easy. What will become their life’s work together, takes seed at this time. Page 128 “We knew that if we…” The next step was for them to get married but it wouldn’t be until after many hurdles and roadblocks that threatens to derail their love for each other. Finally, they succeed and everyone rallies around them for what they have achieved setting the stage for not only their future but the future of Chinatown and for all Chinese in Vancouver.
Chapter 4 opens with Faye explaining their intentions but still not sure how to make it happen. It’s always about helping others. Then, we hear several more wonderful stories and more about playing the game. Dean delivers a nice paragraph, one of few, as he explains to Faye the way forward. Lots of fun entails, on their great American road trip. More about playing games and then they move into their first house together. Faye delivers a soliloquy about her choice of career on page 165 “Real estate, how did we know to open our own office….” Next, comes a section about helping Chinatown prosper page 170, “I needed to breathe….” One of Faye’s biggest achievements begins here when she tries to help an old friend Tung Jang page 173, “It all started one morning….” Then, on page 176, the narrator introduces a problem that came to Chinatown and Faye the activist is born. “All groups in society….” Then, after a sojourn to Hawaii, we see what the smart set is up to and learn how Faye gets involved in the opera. The latter part of this chapter shows how Faye got involved in a number of activities around Vancouver in the beginning.
Chapter 5 opens with Faye announcing to all of Vancouver that she has arrived and is going to make her mark in the construction business. Page 189, “An opportunity was knocking….” It is now the sixties and they are both living in the moment. There is no time to think a thing through there is so much to do. Faye doesn’t need to consult her inner voices because she has Dean by her side to talk things over. It’s one thing after another construction, banking and more construction. This is the first of four chapters that concentrate on their achievements.
In Chapter 6, Faye delivers a soliloquy at the beginning aimed at the white Caucasian establishment chastising them for being asleep in the sixties and not seeing the changes happening. Page 221, “In the early….” This leads to more achievements in banking on page 222.”You know you’re not doing any business….” Then right away it leads to her successes in immigration category reforms. Just as Yick Fung was important to all Chinese in Victoria when Faye was growing up, she next sets out to build her own Yick Fung in Vancouver, a grand house in the Oakridge area that is a replica of the Imperial Palace in Beijing. It will be where she will host politicians, new immigrants, wealthy visitors and the little guy over the next decades. The Cultural Revolution starts in China about this time in 1966. It acts as a catalyst spurring the Chinese to immigrate to Canada from 1967 onwards. Faye’s timing couldn’t have been better although she didn’t realize it at the time. Then, back to construction.
Chapter 7 Faye and Dean set themselves up as host and hostess for wealthy Chinese emigrating from Hong Kong. We meet many on the next pages as they help them settle and get established in Vancouver. She takes another poke at the establishment on page 344 “The middle and upper classes….” Mention is made of a political figure that will play a big part in their lives later on. She also mentions getting involved in buying real estate in the sixties.
Back to construction and other innovations she introduced. She continues to help Chinatown prosper and spurs the building of pagoda-style telephone booths in 1968. For all her work and accomplishments she is given a big reward by the Caucasian establishment. She also becomes the darling of the social set and then more immigration category reforms. By the end of this chapter, she has a long list of awards and first accomplishments. She’s called the most incredible socialite in Vancouver history page 274 “The media in this country….” More parties at her home with a long list of celebrity locals.
The opening paragraphs of Chapter 8 by the narrator set the stage for new developments in Chinatown which she introduces and/or helps to introduce. Page 281: The builders of Chinatown….”
In chapter 9, everything starts to unravel. The next few pages are about how her being away so much trying to help Dean causes problems for their businesses. She doesn’t want to come out and call anyone a thief so instead, a metaphor is introduced called Chinatown neon dust which can get into people if they live in Chinatown too long and make them think only of themselves, greedy.
They have fun developing their Continental Dine and Dance Supper Club of which Dal Richards did a stint as a bandleader. The establishment is more comfortable with Dean and Faye now, after all, they have accomplished but they still don’t seek them out for advice. She is just the Chinatown Kid. “Things are still going on….” Page 313. At the bottom of the page, she explains why establishment intellectuals still fear the Chinese. “Maybe if people knew more….”
The next pages show by the late seventies that Canada is truly becoming a multicultural country but there is still resentment in the establishment. “Canada, multiculturalism, Grouse Mountain…..” This chapter ends with Dean needing a heart-bypass operation and both of them longing for the good old days when they had no problems to worry about except where they would go next. It is a transitional chapter between their accomplishments in the sixties and starting on the second chapter of their life together in 1980.
In Chapter 10, Faye is without Dean for the first time in their married life. She needs to draw on her inner voice to find the strength to carry on. She is determined not to quit because that would admit defeat or failure, so she soldiers on. This offers several interesting discussions between her and her conscience that always winds up with her winning. By the end of chapter 10, she is a much stronger person which is a good thing because she will need all her strength and more to survive chapter 11.
In the beginning of Chapter 10 on page 319, Faye and Dean embark on the second chapter of their life together, China. They are longing for the old days of the sixties when they were travelling the world together, free as a bird and living in the moment. On page 322, Faye is beginning to think of life without Dean always around. She knows she will soon have to rely on herself more and more. “I found it interesting how different cultures….” On page 323 she realizes her spirit is going to be challenged and she is determined to stay the course and carry on to the end. “But no one denied me any of it….”
While she looked calm on the outside she was anything but inside with all sorts of fears and premonitions as seen on page 323, “I never felt once like going home….” The last line tells how she appeared to others, “so I kept my composure.” She is happy to return to Hong Kong and see Dean and her son but something keeps pulling her back like a drug, page 326. At the top of page 327, she mentions how Li Kai Shing acquires properties. This is important because apparently, no one in the BC government did their homework before they sold him the Expo lands a few years later. At the bottom of page 327, she mentions two Fayes. “So I am heading for Beijing…” She is on her own for the first time in her married life and has to refer often to her inner voices. On page 328, she’s a big hit wherever she goes in China. “Others came and went…” On page 329, she remembers the lessons she learned growing up always to be larger than life to please the crowd, “These were good times….” At the bottom of page 329, she decides she has found her future life’s work, “Everyone approved….” Getting everyone to speak Mandarin was the Chinese government’s way of uniting the people.
On page 334 in Taiwan, the stars meet which is a warning of something bad to come because they form a pathway to heaven. Shortly after, Dean has a heart attack. “At the end of my trip to China….. In 1981.” On page 335, she says, “Even if I wasn’t always successful.” This refers to the government of Canada not allowing the contracts she brought home from China to go through. They didn’t want to do business with Communist China. On page 336 she claims victory because she never let her spirit be broken. “I proved very competent….”
The death knoll for Chinatown was sounded in the early eighties, page 337. Then, in 1982 a worldwide recession strikes and they lose a lot. All these events push Faye more and more towards China. P339 “In the world of…” At the bottom of that page we can see that racism still exists in the establishment in Vancouver in the 1980s, In Vancouver, we still had our detractors….”
The following year 1983, they are off on another road trip to California to help out an old friend. “David Spencer and I….” She makes up her mind to go back to China at the top of page 341, despite what the establishment thinks, “Back in Vancouver….” At the bottom of page 341, they are looking for a way to get back to China, “While Faye’s bus of life….” They finally find a way to get back to the Orient at the top of page 343, “In Vancouver, we had been….” In Taiwan, she meets Tan Yu for the first time, “On this trip, I met….” On page 344, she is in Japan and Korea promoting Expo 86.”We were welcomed royally….”
The next few pages talk about the good and bad that Expo 86 brought to Vancouver. She compares the Vancouver of today with Vancouver before Expo. The past is called The Vancouver Living History Museum and the text jumps back and forth between the past and the present. The present is called The Reclamation Tour. What this is all leading to is something called The Big Deceit. On page 348 we learn where this is heading, the sale of the Expo lands. All the preambles are to show what a big deal this was in the history of Vancouver and Canada because it virtually changed the path the country was on away from government for the people and said Canada was for sale to the highest bidder. P348, “There were lots of controversies…..” Faye does her best to get the Expo lands to build affordable housing but the bidding is rigged in favour of overseas buyers with more money. The new government is running the show and they are not for the people,” Members of the government….” P348. The government is saying if you want to come along for the ride you can make millions and many did. P349, “Once you jumped on for the ride…” At the bottom of page 350, we return to the tour and the beauty of the former Expo lands today but the legacy is different regarding affordable housing which can be seen in the rearview mirror. Buildings are on fire in the rearview mirror symbolizing the damage done to too many lives due to a lack of adequate affordable housing in Vancouver. “The sweet beauty of the Expo lands….”
The next part of this chapter is about the establishment finally waking up to what is going on in the housing market in Vancouver. “Back in Vancouver….” page 355. Double page photo spreads popup now and then to remind the reader that discrimination of the masses is prevalent all over the world. The poem on pages 357 and 358 should be read in couplets. On page 359, Faye is in charge, “Faye was an endless….”
In 1989, they’re back in China and in Beijing leading up to the great confrontation known as Tiananmen Square.
In chapter 11, by the time we are halfway through; her spirit is under a full-scale attack, aimed at breaking her down, by the premier’s lawyers. Her inner voice tries to rationalize first the premier, then his henchmen, the lawyers and then the problems that befall her one by one. She does her best, but winds up saying things like, “That’s about as much as we could figure him out.” We get to see her confused state of mind as she tries to rationalize which often leaves the reader confused which is okay because she is confused as well and the reader is supposed to be left confused. Her inner voice almost explodes at one point until she finally realizes she has to focus on the larger pattern and not worry about trying to do battle with the one she is caught up in (the larger pattern being the little guy on the street who comes to her rescue after seeing her beaten up on TV and in the newspapers). She embraces the little guy and finds the strength to carry on. Although she loses the legal battle she survives in the end because she stops trying to fight the lawyers and lets things take their course. Morally, she comes out the winner and is forever known as the beloved Hat Lady for the beautiful hats she wears to court each day.
At the beginning of chapter 11
Back in Vancouver on page 371, the Leung family is craving normalcy after their brave escape from Beijing and the turmoil in China. But, almost immediately, they are thrown into another mystery/adventure that keeps them guessing right from the start. Why is the Premier calling them direct? When they arrive at Fantasy Gardens, why does Lillian disappear after she opens the door and why do they find themselves sitting face to face with the Premier? Why does he want them to sell Fantasy Gardens and all his other properties and to look after all his financial affairs? They are not impressed by the Premiers 600 square foot accommodation in Fantasy Gardens either.
The last paragraph on page 373 begins, “But he wasn’t the leader. He was the non-leader.” Faye’s inner voice takes over the conversation. This paragraph is all about government for the people versus government for special interest. He wasn’t a leader for the people. Faye drifts back and forth from the present to try to size up the Premier.
P374, the paragraph beginning, “We would learn that there was no philosophy behind his premiership other than to make money.” Her inner voice is coming to conclusions about the Premier. They learn about the many problems facing Fantasy Gardens and then she switches to trying to figure out the Premier’s inner circle. She determines they are all in it for the experience. No promises of rewards or even a future, just the daily experience of being in power.
Having come to the conclusion the Premier and his cabinet as not working for the people but for themselves, she still thinks Fantasy Gardens is worth her trying to sell on page 375. She will need to draw on her network of contacts overseas though to make it happen. This is precisely why the Premier contacted her in the first place. He knew she had made many trips to China throughout the previous decade and knew billionaires and wealthy Asian businessmen and so did Dean. What the Premier did promise his followers was a vision for the future of Vancouver, his vision. He gave them all the opportunity to help themselves but it was up to their own initiative just as he intended on doing.
“I want to be Premier to promote Fantasy Gardens,” he says at the bottom of page 375. He was only in it for personal gain. On page 376, Faye starts off talking about the personal euphoria she feels working so closely with the Premier and ends the paragraph by saying, “That’s about as close as I ever got to really being a part of the group.”
She goes on to talk about the experience the Premier shared with his cabinet and how his followers were tied to him, the charismatic leader. Their loyalty goes beyond normal business relationships and it requires their absolute devotion to the leader, 376.
Emphasis is made on his financial situation at the bottom of page 376 when the Premier tells Faye she will have to buy tapes on Fantasy Gardens from his gift store. She carries on thinking about the relationship between the leader and his followers on page 377. The Premier knows a lot about Faye and Dean and that Dean has a lot of influential classmates in Hong Kong. How could he know this unless someone in his circle has been looking into the Leung’s background? At the bottom of page 377, Faye goes so far as to call the Premier an ethical profit but not an exemplary one, although she backtracks and says she isn’t really sure which he might be. In the middle of page 378, she continues to talk about the relationship between the prophet and his followers.
Everything goes as planned and they arrive in Taiwan and meet with the syndicate of buyers Faye has put together. It is at the bottom of page 379 when we first realize what the Premier’s big vision for the future is, he not only wants Faye to sell Fantasy Gardens but to sell him as well to her Asian friends. His vision for the future is governments getting rich off Asian investment and to heck with the little guy. There will be lots of spin-offs for officials, as well as their friends, cronies and developers. One member of the syndicate decides he wants to buy FG himself and his kids and establish a head office in Canada and Faye sells him on Vancouver, on page 380. She tells the Premier and he goes into overdrive with a big plan to quit politics and become the head of this investor’s Canadian holdings.
What follows, is Faye accompanying this Asian investor to Vancouver for a meeting with the Premier which takes place on the top floor of a downtown Vancouver luxury hotel. The investor is smart and the Premier is greedy. The usual shenanigans take place between both parties including the Premier and his wife hiding on the balcony when a busboy arrives with dinner because they don’t want to be seen. If the newspapers and opposition find out what he is up to using his public office for his private gain he will be in big trouble. Some money exchanges hands in a show of good faith and the sale is signed. Several conditions are set by the investor for when his daughter returns for the official signing.
More shenanigans take place after the investor’s daughter arrives. Their entourage heads for Victoria with all the cast in accompanying limos to have lunch with the Lieutenant Governor of B.C. who only agrees to host them because he is an old friend of Faye’s. The media are in hot pursuit as well. The Premier’s office is in damage control trying to keep everything hush-hush contrary to the Asian investor who wants everything broadcast so his followers back home will be impressed and his stock prices will go up.
In the middle of page 386, the text switches to real estate because back in Vancouver the next day the Premier chauffeurs the investor and Faye around the lower mainland showing him government land that he should buy which the Premier will sell him out of the governments land reserves at a good price. In the middle of page 387, the conversation switches to affordable housing and one of the band-aid solutions the government has introduced, laneway houses. The following page continues with laneway houses and something else the government has done to assure an endless supply of real estate in Vancouver for developers, the ten-year tax assessment.
On page 389, the first sign of bigger problems enters the picture. The premier’s lawyer says the sale cannot go through but Faye rises to the occasion and tells them how to do it. Realizing Faye is very smart; the wheels are set in motion to deal with her if it becomes necessary. Why didn’t the lawyers want the deal to go through? Faye realizes there is a monster in the room and she soon figures out who it is on page 390.
On page 393 after the premier is charged with a criminal offence and Faye becomes the star witness she begins to realize that things aren’t right and the lawyers seem to be lining up against her. “I think I’m being set up,” she says. On page 394 she starts freaking out as she leads up to telling some of the bad things that happened to her before the trial started. First, it’s her savings. Then, it’s her household goods and furniture. Both have lead-up paragraphs where she freaks out as she does her best to express her feelings about what happened to them. “The law society meanies were on the march….”
On page 395, just before the trial starts which she calls The Gunfight at the OK Corral, she tells what is happening and of the parties’ involvement. It begins, “The true message!” On the first day of the trial, she learns the judge is in cahoots with the lawyers and her friend Gordon Dowding tells her she doesn’t stand a chance. “I’m not going to help Faye Leung….” Om page 396 she tells some more of the bad things that happened to her, the other lawsuits and lawyers not taking her case. On page 397 finally, she begins to figure out what to do. “Luckily the doors of perception….” If she can’t win, she won’t try to win. The term pattern is used to describe the circle of influence she is caught up in and the circle she needs to be involved in. The smaller circle is the trial the larger circle is the little guy on the street who all rally to her support after they see her being beaten up on TV and in the newspapers by the lawyers. She draws strength from them and rides it out and becomes known as the Hat Lady on page 398. She has reached a higher level of reality and she mentions the Book of NOW.
Back at the OK Corral, the judge finds the Premier not guilty of criminal wrongdoing and says the Premier was coerced by a down-on-her-luck Asian realtor. On paper, she doesn’t cut the mustard and because the judge and the lawyers won’t let her say anything in her own defence the trial is a sham. On page 399, she explains what happened to her.
A few lyrics from a popular song end that section and she changes the subject to China. She spends the next year giving talks about economic development but she knows she needs to get back into the moment on page 401. “But no one wants to keep watching….” Throughout the book and this chapter theatrical terms are used to remind the reader that Faye is the greatest actress that ever lived and she is at her best when in front of an audience of one or a thousand. On page 402 she realizes what she needs to do and jumps back into the China game, Yeah, yeah, yeah that’s all part of the movie of my life.”
She goes back to China with Dean and her son. On page 404, she regains control of her life, “I was always coaxing everyone…” And again on page 405 “Once I had made the breakthrough….” She meets an old friend General Wang and things are just like in the old days before Tiananmen Square. “The army game…”
On page 406 she has a premonition of bad things ahead and chooses to ignore it and tries to run away back home instead of confronting it. “We stopped in Taiwan….” The lyrics from the popular song Stairway to Heaven following her encounter indicate it is a bigger thing than her previous encounter with the stars in 1984 which is followed by Dean having a heart attack. This was going to be worse but she ignores it and chooses to run away.
On page 407 back home she has another premonition of impending disaster “Why do you think I’m all dressed up?” They make it to the top of the Hotel Vancouver and enjoy the evening dancing in each other’s arms and the adoring staff. She points out they aren’t young anymore and she is quite happy flying under the radar back home because nobody knows how they are treated in China, like VIPs. On page 409 in the paragraph that begins “The evening couldn’t have been better….” She takes a swipe at the local press and lawyers who she says if they knew how popular she is in China they might have twisted it to their own liking and called her a modern-day Mata Hari as they did at the Premier’s trial.
Another warning follows of what is about to come in the next paragraph; “Dean gave me one of his big smiles…..” Her life passes before her as she sees people who have been important to them in their lives swirling by on the dance floor. In the next paragraph, she realizes something is wrong with Dean. Dean hangs on for a few moments as she begins to realize what is happening. “But our days,” page 410. The Blue Danube continues to play on after Dean is gone, like an old friend.