A Slice of Life in China's Cultural Revolution

  “I was carried away, swept along by the mighty stream of words pouring from the hundreds of pages. To me it was the ultimate book: once you had read it, neither your own life nor the world you lived in would ever look the same.”

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie's novel about General Mao's attempt at re-educating the youth of China by taking them from their families and placing them in rural areas, was a beautiful slice of Chinese life.  I had mixed feelings upon finishing this novel.  First, I loved how easy this book was to read.  It has a lovely flow that lends itself to quick sessions of concentration and interruptions.  Second, the story of Lou and the narrator's experience living and working on Phoenix Mountain is a heartwarming one of discovery, self-awareness, and lost innocence.  As a reader, you want to see how the story will turn out and what will happen next.  Sijie's portrayal of forbidden books and the lengths avid readers will go through to obtain any and all reading material is one I was able to identify with.  I couldn't imagine never being able to read again.  I think I would probably die of boredom and become severely depressed.  I need that method of escape!

On the downside...I wasn't as impressed with the novel as the other members of my book club.  Everyone seemed to really like this book.  I was in the more "meh" area of contentment.  Yes, it was entertaining at times.  Yes, it was a quick read.  Yes, it had some beautiful scenes.  But, overall, I wanted more to it.  I was dissatisfied with the characters.  I was dissatisfied with the ending.  I guess you could say I was dissatisfied. 

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the entirety of the novel, it was adapted into a film version and released in 2002.  It's now in my Netflix queue and I do plan on watching it.


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