Here is a captivating coming-of-age novel in the tradition of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
Translated by Martin Merz and Jane Weizhen Pan.
©2009 Wang Gang; (P)2009 Penguin
"The novel's larger portrait of Love Liu and Second Prize Wang's friendship emerges with touching clarity and provides a perfect counterbalance to the corruption and confusion of the Cultural Revolution." (Publishers Weekly)
Everything in the story line revolves around the viewpoint of Love Liu, a particularly self-obsessed teenage boy, perhaps an unnecessarily redundant description. Set against the background of the cultural revolution, this coming-of-age story keeps the cultural revolution way too far in the background to inform the listeners. The immensity of the cruel and erratic politics of the time are merely hinted at in the novel, but explicated in the afterword (should have been the "Forward."). Love Liu does not seem to register anyone else's reality as having any validity, and as a result creates catastrophic problems for his parents, best friends, teachers, and himself. Themes and events are introduced and then dropped, leaving enough loose ends to be frustrating and dissatisfying. The ending was limp and bathetic.
I love books by Chinese authors and nonfiction about China and was looking forward to this. Alas, thumbs down.
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