Set on the eve of the Rape of Nanjing - when Japanese troops invaded this historic capital city, massacred hundreds of thousands, and committed thousands of rapes - Nanjing 1937 is a tender and humorous story of an impossible love and a lively, detailed historical portrait of a people on the verge of destruction.
The novel centres on the life of Ding Wenyu, a privileged, womanizing, narcissistic professor of languages, and traces the course of the affair that transforms him from outlandish rake to devoted lover. Trapped in a sterile marriage, caught up in a cycle of drinking and debauchery, he falls headlong in love with the young and beautiful Yuyuan when he catches sight of her on her wedding day and publicly professes his love for her - to great ridicule from all concerned. As the Japanese invade Nanjing and the city is consumed by bloodshed and violence, Yuyuan's marriage begins to crumble. In desperation she turns to Ding, and an epic love story begins.