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.
"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)
Character development wasn't very good (or maybe I just didn't care for them). Descriptions of sexual coming of age were written at a jr. high school level - a teen boy's world, without an adult's complexity of language and story-telling, simplistic... boring. At the beginning of the book, I lost interest book when a description of a man's muscular arms were described as like "Sylvester Stallone". I thought this was the Cultural Revolution. Alternatively, I recommend -Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by See- where the characters are developed, you learn and can almost taste a period of history. Although highly raved about, Balzac and the Little Seamstress falls very short to my taste. BD Wong was a good, acceptable reader.
I was a little disappointed by this book. The characters and their antics were interesting at the beginning. However, it got to a point where it seemed the author no longer knew where his story was going so he finished the book by having one of the characters leave completely out of the blue. I was quite disappointed with the ending. However, the rest of the book is a good read.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Sijie Dai, presents the story of two young men moved from the city to the Chinese countryside to be re-educated during Mao's Cultural Revolution. The young men discover and read a number of foreign books (forbidden during the revolution), the contents of which captivate their thinking.
BLCS is beautifully written and has an evenly flowing prose. It gives a glimpse into the toils and struggles so many in history have had to endure. For the most part, I found reading it relaxing and enjoyable.
As a whole, though, I cannot give an enthusiastic recommendation. First, the plot wasn't overly gripping; while I finished it in two sittings, there was rarely a spot where it wouldn't have been easy to put it down. While the narrative contained some twists and turns, it was for the most part linear and often predictable. Ultimately, the story's conclusion left me unsatisfied.
I think a word of warning is also in order for those who are sensitive about mature themes. BLCS contains some crudeness and graphic imagery, as well as some explicit sensuality. Additionally, an important component of the plot deals in a matter-of-fact way with a subject that is divisive and many find offensive.
I was expecting better based on other reviews and the seductive artwork and title. This was okay to pretty good, but I've read/heard more riveting tales recently.
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