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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Audiobook

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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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 (430 )
5 star
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Overall
3.9 (171 )
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Story
4.2 (168 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    maida smith Sandy Ut 02-05-13
    maida smith Sandy Ut 02-05-13 Member Since 2016

    Maida

    HELPFUL VOTES
    36
    ratings
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    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Pereira 03-05-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    72
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    Story
    "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
    1
    ratings
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    4
    2
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    Overall
    "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 2009

    I am a voracious reader and long-time Audible member (2006). My favorite narrators are Simon Vance and Davina Porter.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    5
    5
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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
    47
    ratings
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    26
    7
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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
  •  
    Kaui 06-28-16
    Kaui 06-28-16 Member Since 2016

    I love to walk and run listening to audiobooks

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "A Chinese version of Ex Machina"
    Any additional comments?

    This little book is a gem. The language is tight, well crafted. The storyline is a bit slow to start, gathers steam in the middle, and has a surprising (sad) twist at the end. Many who have reviewed this book disparaged the ending. I do not find it as disappointing or disjointed as others. My view of Chinese stories is that they are always laced with tragedy, but from the tragic ashes rise hope, understanding and enlightenment. I feel that this book does not disappoint.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CAT_from_NC W-S, NC 05-04-16
    CAT_from_NC W-S, NC 05-04-16 Member Since 2015

    Sebnem

    ratings
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    9
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    "Bad...Bad...Bad recording"

    I had to quit listening to the book due to VERY bad recording and spend money to buy the e-book. Terrible recording, totally waste of money!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Oscar 03-06-16
    Oscar 03-06-16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Story
    "For those college students looking for quick answe"

    SPOILER ALERT





    the whole story is about two city teens send for rededication onto a mountain. they live in a small village for some time, a love triangle happens when they run into the little seamstress. they steal four-eyes(comedic relief) suit case which contains Western books. Balzac the author of one of the books. they teach it to the seamstress and in the end she leaves them for the city because she finds the value of her beauty. "Bro's before hoes"

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NicoleMarieYogini 08-01-13 Member Since 2012

    ...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    Story
    "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
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  • Rowan
    Wales
    11/19/10
    Overall
    "I adored this book"

    I adored this book from start to finish. I am holding off listening to it a second time for now but I know I won't wait for long. A truelly wonderful story of forbidden beauty.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • ms
    2/21/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "lovely writing"

    Really enjoyed this book well worth buying I will be looking for similar authors. Good narrator. Beautiful descriptions in this writing..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Eugene
    12/18/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Romance Within The Cultural Revolution"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Given that the book is both a relationship story and also specific to a period in Chinese history I don't know of many friends who would find the book to their taste or interest. I think that the setting and the relationships are well told, so I like the book, but its not a genre novel; it isn't that easily categorized. The appeal might be that the book is somewhat unique. A personal rather than a historical view of being re-educated as part of China's cultural revolution is unusual. Being written by a Chinese author, but published first in French, indicates the unique nature of the novel. Its also a quietly humorous novel, which makes it appealing.


    What other book might you compare Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress to, and why?

    The stories of Eileen Chang might be compared to this novel. Both authors write relationship stories within a Chinese setting. They are Chinese authors, but write within a naturalistic style, that of the European novel. The stories take place at authentic moments in Chinese history, but are fictions, part-autobiography, part fiction. The reference to Balzac in the title links the book to the naturalist tradition in French literature of the 1800's, and this is the written style of the story: small scale characters within a larger historical setting. The characters in the book are individuals but they cannot live apart from their societies and their histories.


    What does B.D. Wong bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    The book is an account of a personal experience, so an audio book gives the author a actual voice. I didn't really notice the reading of the audio book in terms of who was reading it. The voice just matched what I expected from the novel, so the audio seemed like a perfect fit for the narrator.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The book represents a meeting between cosmopolitan Chinese who have European tastes and communist Chinese villagers who understand this European influence as corrupt. The story of the violin shows this conflict and also how there is a shared humanity in the experience of music. What makes the book moving rather than simply a love story in an exotic setting is the fact that the 'Little Seamstress' in an insightful and intelligent person. This relates to Eileen Chang's representation of Chinese women: these are women who need to fulfill their social role, which can make them seem subservient and ornamental, but this simplistic view is is not the case if one considers these women's lives in depth and detail.


    Any additional comments?

    The novel is something of a contradiction which makes its a stimulating book. Its sensitive tone suggest that it takes a conciliatory approach to the cultural revolution, there are no evil villains. The book might also be understood as condescending towards the village-based Chinese as they are shown to be ignorant, so that the book represents a Western based superiority towards Chinese culture - hence its popularity in the West, perhaps. However, looking at the the story more closely, it also mocks the European educated men who are exiled in the village, and the Little Seamstress might be seen as a woman who has to make her own path within Chinese society where there are two opposing and conflicted cultural and political forces: Modern China shifting towards a European social and cultural model, and authentic Chinese life with its long standing and complex history. The story of the Little Seamstress is an account of a woman living within a specific social setting where European ideas and culture are an intrusion and not necessarily a solution.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rowan
    pembroke dock, United Kingdom
    11/22/10
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    Id looked at getting this book all year but always went for something a little more bulky to fill my day but eventually gave in to its pretty little cover and title and im glad I did. While the cover is pretty the book is beautiful. Iv bought a couple paperbacks for gifts this christmas.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen
    Rowlands Gill,, United Kingdom
    6/28/08
    Overall
    "The age still to come....."

    A generation of Chinese writers, artists and film-makers are growing up and finding a home in the minds, sensitivities and subsidies of the French cultural machine. Dai Sijie's novel must be read as essentially the screenplay to his 2002 film 'Xiao cai feng.' Where the film gives us the stunning landscapes of Northern China, it falls someway short of the book in developing the characters of Ma and Luo.
    Still a mile behind Ha Jin and Won Kar Wei - we wait to see the next output of Dai Sijie and hope that it comes quickly to audio.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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