A stunning eye- opening fictional tale set in China from 1963-1993; WILD SWANS MEETS DR ZHIVAGO,

In September 1979  some young Chinese artists who had abandoned socialist realism were bravely exploring self-expression. They  tried to find a venue to display their experimental artworks. When all doors were closed to them they discussed  displaying their work on the railings  of the Beijing National Gallery.  They did just that.  What happened next? When I heard that story told by Qu Leilei, I wondered why  art lovers  around the world don’t celebrate their courage. That is why I wrote ‘Brushstrokes in Time.’Those artists called themselves The Stars. The founders of the Stars Art Movement were  Huang Rui  Ma Desheng , Wang Keping,  Qu Leilei   and  ZhongA  Cheng and  the twenty artists who displayed their work included Ai Weiwei, Shao Fei and Li Shuang. Scroll down for newspaper reviews, endorsements and links to blogs about Brushstrokes in Time . One of the first reactions was from LADY MOYRA BANNISTER .

“Utterly brilliant! I am so enthralled – many congratulations on a quite extraordinary achievement.”

brushstrokes-cover-for-FB (6)

https://profile.theguardian.com/user/id/15232386 The Guardian!

In  the spring  some fellow authors and journalists  reviewed my novel on Amazon and I was  encouraged by their comments.  Now, in September  it is heartening to see the names of people who I have never met but have written glowing reports of BiT and how it moved and informed them. I love it that the readers  empathise with my Chinese Romeo and Juliet but many seem grateful to have learned a lot about China and its recent history without needing to try hard.  You can read them if you go to Amazon Books. (Brushstrokes in Time by Sylvia Vetta ) https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/prime/ref=nav_logo_prime_join If you would like to review it,  whether you think it good or bad , please do.

Author and psychologist  Elizabeth Mapstone  likened me to Pearl Buck. It kind of makes those 10 years of work worthwhile.

‘A beautifully captivating and enchanting tale, a narrative that will leave you close to tears and will keep you on the end of your seat until the final page.’?
In her review http://elizabethmapstone.co.uk/2016/03/05/china-through-fiction/

Katie Isbester of Claret Press forwarded me this review of my novel by a twenty year old student. Readers of Emily’s age  are reacting emotionally to Brushstrokes in Time  and  those of Chinese ancestry in particular.  That is why Essential Audio books is going to target young adults when they launch the audio book version in October.  Doesn’t Emily write beautifully…



Blackwell launch Solo by Helen 3

My aim was and is to try to connect people. Cultures can divide us but like Ai Weiwei’s 100 million sunflower seeds we are essentially the same. But each one of us like those porcelain seeds is unique.

The first newspaper review. Reviewof BIT in OT

JAN LEE has written this review of Brushstrokes in Times. It’s a wonderful review but I see what writers mean when they say that once your novel is published it belongs to the reader. Jan calls it ‘a harrowing read’ but I call it ‘a story of love and hope’! Some chapters are harrowing and were difficult to write. Following my heroine’s story ( like reading about her country’s long history) can feel like swinging on a pendulum.

Scroll down  below the sketch for more newspaper and blog reviews but first here is my blog for Claret Press in which I write about more personal reactions.

Breaking Unexpected Barriers
My Blog for Claret Press on May 29, 2016 describes how my novel is breaking barriers between generations. One of the stories arose at this event in The Oxford Literary Festival Marquee .

. Weimin's sketch of OX Lit festival marquee event

Brushstrokes in Time’s first review in Asia?
Not quite – Paul Harris wrote a fabulous review in Chinese Art

Because of the content post 1980, it will be impossible to get BiT reviewed in China. Jane’s review is good but is possibly the least favourable so far. My publisher believes my main characters Little Winter and Hu Weiwei are well developed but they are Chinese. I didn’t want them to talk like Westeners.
I met a delightful student from Singapore yesterday (May 4,2016). She says she is reading BiT very slowly because she doesn’t want to miss out on any of the detail which Jane praised. But what delights me is the emotional response it is evoking in young people of Chinese ancestry and their parents.

PETE HUGHES for The Oxford Mail


NICOLAS NEWMAN in Oxford Prospect  magazine


ASIAN BOOKS BLOG  interviewed me about Brushstrokes in Time.

The home of this blog is Singapore. It will be great if Brushstrokes in Time reaches the Chinese diaspora. It is unlikely that, in the near future, it can be read or indeed anything like it be written in China but I am hopeful that situation will change. The current Chinese government have abolished the Labour Camps and ended the One Child Policy which are a good start. In nearly all societies change comes gradually. China is so large and with one billion three hundred thousand people, the challenge is almost unimaginable. When Chinese readers can read Brushstrokes in Time I think most of them will like my characters and even Communist Party members should like Little Winter’s father.

 China Experts Dr Maria Jaschok of LMH (The University of Oxford), and film maker and journalist based in Beijing, Frank Sieren  have endorsed the authenticity of the background history.

The following are personal reactions   from people in the Chinese diaspora and from other writers after they  read Brushstrokes in Time



“A stunning eye opening fictional tale set in China from 1963-1993. Utterly brilliant! I am so enthralled – many congratulations on a quite extraordinary achievement.”

YANGCHIN LI (North Carolina)

I love your story. I just finished reading it. I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished it. What I found fascinating, is the courage of the heroine to endure so many hardships. My father left China before the Communist Party of China took over the government but I heard from him so many painful stories that reminded me of Little Winter’s life. Being born in the West, I was another “Sarah”, feeling a bit ashamed of my ancestral roots. Brushstrokes in Time speaks to me personally. I can hear my mother’s voice and my grandmother’s voice in Little Winter. Your dedication and your inspiration in telling this story may bring more understanding about Chinese values and culture to the younger generation.

SIAN LIWICKI ( Bothy Vineyard)
Having grown up in Singapore as a third generation Chinese, modern China was distant and unfamiliar to me. I only learnt about the Chinese Cultural Revolution long after the event, via brief TV references and the occasional historical article in magazines. Some Singaporeans had relatives in China and through them one got the feeling that life was hard, limited in scope and little valued by their dictators. If I had wanted to know more I then needed to look up dry, historical commentaries. However, with Brushstrokes in Time I found for the first time a fresh, unorthodox, approachable and completely enthralling novel, dealing with this complex period up till 1994. It is unorthodox because Brushstrokes in Time is written by an English woman, Sylvia Vetta, using the voice of a Chinese refugee. Brushstrokes lays out with great humanity and authenticity, the huge panorama of events that engulfed the lives of masses living in China. All the elements of “regular life”, but especially of those in the artistic movement, were researched then encapsulated in the story of one fictional woman, Xiao Dong and her friends. By its simple yet compelling story-telling, this book has taught me so much about a country that not only shaped my ancestors, but was so completely at odds with the paths taken by Diaspora Chinese living overseas. For anyone seeking to understand the China of today – especially its people – this book is essential reading.

HWANG YIN ( Academic /Singapore)
‘An intriguing blend of narrative and memory. A timely novel that lifts the veil on a foundational period in contemporary Chinese art.’

MICHAEL SMITH ( Best -selling author of Station X, The Debs of Bletchley Park and Foley the Spy Who Saved 10 thousand Jews etc)

‘I think it is wonderful. It is a very beautiful story, well told and in a very appropriate and enchanting voice.’

LINORA LAWRENCE ( Chair: Oxford Writers Group )

A hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Wild Swans. Little Winter’s story takes us from Beijing to Berkeley, California by way of the Stars’ Art Movements. Little Winter’s story is a window into the Chinese world of the seventies and eighties about which as yet, little has been written. Truth is often best told through fiction and Sylvia Vetta’s story tells it in spades.

TONIA COPE BOWLEY ( South African author, academic and founder of the Thembisa Trust.)
Brushstrokes in Time is charming, captivating, educational, gripping, evocative, heart rendering, challenging, inspiring, historical, interlinks the generations and their differences – calls for that which is best and highest in human nature and so much more. Today I could not put it down till I’d finished.

More reviews and comments under this picture taken at the launch in Blackwell’s Oxford.

Blackwells (Amita pic)

Even the CHINESE BRUSHPAINTERS SOCIETY have written about Brushstrokes in Time http://cbps.org.uk/category/news/

As a thank you to Katie I bought a copy of Qu Leilei’s book on Chinese Calligraphy and he signed it for her.
Katie and Leilei

Even the Chinese Brushpainters Society have written about Brushstrokes in Time http://cbps.org.uk/category/news/

For more reviews go to Amazon Books. (Brushstrokes in Time by Sylvia Vetta ) https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/prime/ref=nav_logo_prime_join