Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Snow flower and the secret fan - Lisa See

This is yet another novel about women in China. It’s based in the nineteenth century, in a very rural area. Ancient traditions still apply: feet binding, arranged marriages, transfer to the groom family after the wedding ceremony, seclusion in dedicated rooms, tiring house chores, endless childbearing. Women are expected to deliver sons and they are looked down upon and abused in case they only give birth to daughters or they don’t have children at all. More often than not their husbands take up concubines when their wives get older and less attractive.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Something happened, Work - Joseph Heller

If the name Joseph Heller doesn’t ring a bell, just think of how many times you’ve said “Catch-22”, when referring to a lose-lose situation, a dilemma, a deadlock, a paradoxical standoff. Well, that’s the title of his masterpiece, and that’s where the expression comes from.
“Work” is actually an extract from “Something happened”, Heller’s second great work. I did read the actual novel a few years ago, but I really loved reading this brief selection of some of its best parts again.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Chinese Cinderella - Adeline Yen Mah, Mao's last dancer - Li Cunxin

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society is one of five books that I picked up from the Chinese literature section of a second hand bookstore in Bangkok. While reading the introduction I found out that it is categorized as children fiction. I was about to drop it, then I decided to give it a try. Well, if this is a novel for children, then nowadays children are very lucky! I read it all. Though I am a bit of a history buff and I have spent quite some time in China and Shanghai, where most of the characters live, reading this book I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know or I had forgotten.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Wild swans: three daughters of China - Jung Chang

This novel reminds me of great family sagas such as War and Peace, One hundred years of solitude or The house of the spirits, where the authors tell the history of their respective countries over many decades through the vicissitudes of a few generations of one or more families.
Jung Chang recounts the history of twentieth century China while writing the biographies of three women: her grandmother, her mum and herself.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The bridegroom - Ha Jin

This is a collection of short stories. I’ve always liked the genre and I’ve read quite a few such books in the past, mostly American but also European and Asian - Korean and Japanese to be precise. This is the first time that I read short stories written by a Chinese author (who writes in English though).
The stories are all based in post cultural revolution China. The country is developing fast but still recovering from the social and material disasters of the previous decade.