Regular price: $22.60

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
In Cart

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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings


  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars


  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars


  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • 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.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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?


  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ashley
  • APO, ap, United States
  • 11-13-12

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.

  • Overall
  • Karen
  • Lake Havasu City, AZ, USA
  • 03-21-03

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Read like a teenage boy's journal

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.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michele
  • Gatineau, QC, Canada
  • 04-13-05


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.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Mixed Feelings

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.

1 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Laura
  • pacific palisades, CA, USA
  • 06-07-03

Ho hum

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.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful