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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress | [Dai Sijie]

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

From within the hopelessness and terror of China's Cultural Revolution, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening, and the magical power of storytelling. "An unexpected miracle," raves the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "a delicate, and often hilarious, tale."
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Publisher's Summary

At the height of Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution, two boys are among hundreds of thousands exiled to the countryside for "re-education." The narrator and his best friend, Luo, guilty of being the sons of doctors, find themselves in a remote village where, among the peasants of the Phoenix mountains, they are made to cart buckets of excrement up and down the precipitous winding paths. Their meager distractions include a violin - and, before long, the beautiful daughter of the local tailor.

But it is when the two discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation that their re-education takes its most surprising turn. While ingeniously concealing their forbidden treasure, the boys find transit to worlds they had thought lost forever. And after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, even the Little Seamstress will be forever transformed.

From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening, and the magical power of storytelling.

©2001 Dai Sijie; (P)2002 Random House Inc., Random House Audio, a Division of Random House Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Paperback, 2003

"An unexpected miracle - a delicate, and often hilarious, tale." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"A funny, touching, sly and altogether delightful novel...about the power of art to enlarge our imaginations." (Washington Post Book World)
"Poetic and affecting...riveting." (New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (330 )
5 star
 (88)
4 star
 (127)
3 star
 (78)
2 star
 (22)
1 star
 (15)
Overall
3.7 (86 )
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 (36)
3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
3.9 (82 )
5 star
 (26)
4 star
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3 star
 (12)
2 star
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1 star
 (4)
Performance
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  •  
    Judy Pereira 03-05-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "Chinese Seamstress"

    A lovely short story that gives a great insight into the impact of the cultural revolution on real people.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin Richmond VICAustralia 08-19-07
    Erin Richmond VICAustralia 08-19-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A lovely tale"

    I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the narrator was none other than one of my favourite characters from 'Law and Order - SVU'; Dr Wong. The narration of this story was clear, impelling and full of energy as BD Wong gave life to each of the characters in this story. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a lovely tale, despite being set in the harsh world of the Chinese revolution and re-education of the bourgoise. The characters are witty and endearing and have inspired me to read a number of other classic tales (including the Count of Monte Cristo!). Whilst I wish I could have learnt more about the characters at the story's end, I was not disappointed and enjoyed every minute of this audiobook.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lanakila Holly Springs, NC, USA 06-26-07
    Lanakila Holly Springs, NC, USA 06-26-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    138
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    "Delightfully Funny"

    The characters in this story were excellent and the word-painting of the author did a great job bringing images to my mind.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Alexandria, VA, USA 09-24-05
    Jennifer Alexandria, VA, USA 09-24-05
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    "lovely listen"

    This book made a perfect audiobook. We listened to it while painting one weekend. Colorful story and great narration. It's not going to end up as required college reading, but nevertheless opens people up to a world about which most of us are completely clueless.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. MacLeod 07-03-03
    D. MacLeod 07-03-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    6
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    "Love of Books"

    I would think that teenagers could relate to this book -- and get a feel for what it would be like if all books were banned. Maybe it could help light the lamp of learning.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Book Worm 08-01-13
    Book Worm 08-01-13 Member Since 2012

    I love yoga. I love cooking healthy, organic, natural, delicious food. I love reading, writing, traveling. But more than anything, I love laughing and cuddling with my Michael and our pup.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting, Not Amazing"

    It was an interesting story in that it takes place during the Cultural Revolution and I’ve not read a lot of fiction set during that harrowing time. I also appreciated the main characters’ love of words and literature and found this theme enchanting. I liked how it showcased the power of books to heal and change people for the better. That said, although the book kept my attention, I’m pretty lukewarm on it overall mostly because I felt there was little closure to running themes and the ending was uneventful and sudden.

    The narration was quicker than other audiobooks I've listened to, which I really appreciated. But I felt like some sentences were spoken unclearly and had to rewind multiple times to hear what was said.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Hurleyville, NY, United States 02-24-13
    Amazon Customer Hurleyville, NY, United States 02-24-13
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    8
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    "amazing novel, you don't want to finish it"
    If you could sum up Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress in three words, what would they be?

    some words weren't clear for me


    What did you like best about this story?

    it seems to be a simple story but the way the author describes the emotions and the background circunstancies are very rich.


    If you could take any character from Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    the seamstress


    Any additional comments?

    no

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maida Sandy, UT, United States 02-05-13
    Maida Sandy, UT, United States 02-05-13 Member Since 2008

    I am a life long student. I love to study and learn and I enjoy factual books but also well research novels. At age 75 I have read lots.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This was too depressing for me"
    What disappointed you about Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress?

    It seemed everyone worked and finally it was all for naught.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Dai Sijie again?

    yes if it seemed to interest me. This was one of my first purchases and I did not review it very well.


    Any additional comments?

    Sorry it was just not my kind of book but was well done for what it was.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashley APO, ap, United States 11-13-12
    Ashley APO, ap, United States 11-13-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    3
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    "Wonderful all around"
    What made the experience of listening to Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress the most enjoyable?

    The wonderful narration as well as the flow of the story made the book the most enjoyable audio book i own.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I woud have to say the narrator, as he was realistic, down to earth, and in touch with the situation without being -in- it. It made the book realistic, as well as pleasurable. It avoided the dreaded "me me me" aspect that so many fiction books have today.


    Which character – as performed by B.D. Wong – was your favorite?

    Luo, as the satirical tone carried through very well.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, I cried.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Lake Havasu City, AZ, USA 03-21-03
    Karen Lake Havasu City, AZ, USA 03-21-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress"

    Very thought provoking -- enchanting -- it was just wonderful.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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