Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Publisher: Anchor
Publishing Date:October 29th, 1999
Genre: Adult Literarture
Pages: 184 pgs
ISBN: 9780385722209
Source: my local library 

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads
In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

My Review:
I read this book for this month's book club. It is a book that my aunt recommended and I can see why it is one of her favourite books. It is a book about 2 young Chinese boys sent to live in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. These boys were seen to be too education and that they could learn a lot from living in the country and going back to the basics. While they are there, books are forbidden (even illegal)and they are forced to work in a mountainous rural area of China. While working here, they come across a girl, the little chinese seamstress from the title.
I don't want to give too much of this book away, seeing as it is less than 200 pages long. It was wonderfully written and I read this in one sitting. I could not put this book down. I coudln't imagine living in a society where learning and books are seen as something bad. I loved the scenes where the two gentlemen were scheming to try to get some books. It also loved how much passion the boys had for reading and story telling. Even though books are illegal and even though they have found a way to attain a book or two, they still use the fine art of oral storytelling to pass along their passion. It goes to show you how far someone is willing to go to do something they are passionate for. Even in a remote village in the mountains, far away from the universities and from books, the boys find a way to learn and read.
I can only imagine a life without books. I don't know what I would do but I would like to think that I would perhaps begin make up my own stories. This book is beautifully written and it has also peaked my curiosity in a few subjects including the cultural revolution in China and The Count of Monte Cristo (which is mentioned often in this story).
One thing I wish would have been different is the length of the book. I would have loved to have been given a little more description and facts. I would have loved to learn a little more about the time frame and country the book took place in. I also found that the book ended rather abruptly. Even though the ending was foreshadowed, I felt like I wanted to know how the characters adapted after the ending. For these reasons I give the book 3.5 stars out of 5.

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