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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress | Sijie Dai
63 posts | 136 read | 77 to read
In 1971 Mao's campaign against the intellectuals is at its height. Our narrator and his best friend, Luo, distinctly unintellectual but guilty of being the sons of doctors, have been sent to a remote mountain village to be 'reeducated'. The kind of education that takes place among the peasants of Phoenix Mountain involves carting buckets of excrement up and down precipitous, foggy paths, but the two seventeen- year-olds have a violin and their sense of humour to keep them going. Further distraction is provided by the attractive daughter of the local tailor, possessor of a particularly fine pair of feet. Their true re-education starts, however, when they discover a comrade's hidden stash of classics of great nineteenth-century Western literature - Balzac, Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy and others, in Chinese translation. They need all their ingenuity to get their hands on the forbidden books, but when they do their lives are turned upside down. And not only their lives: after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, the Little Seamstress will never be the same again. Without betraying the truth of what happened, Dai Sijie transforms the bleak events of China's Cultural Revolution into an enchanting and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit and the magical power of great storytelling.
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RachelO
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Thank you so much @kaysworld1 - this has been on my tbr for SUCH a long time, and I‘m really excited to read more Chinese fiction. I loved your teaser emojis as well- I‘ve been trying to guess since you posted 🤣 Hope you enjoyed your day off. 😘

Cathythoughts How gorgeous! I love this cover ❤️ 1mo
RachelO @Cathythoughts Me too! I‘d never seen this cover 🥿 1mo
kaysworld1 I'm glad you liked it 😊 1mo
iread2much This is one of my favorite contemporary novels. I hope you like it! 1mo
RachelO @iread2much Fantastic! Looking forward to it even more 😊 1mo
43 likes3 stack adds5 comments
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Nebklvr
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Mehso-so

Enigmatic. Interesting but distant storytelling. Two guys, a young woman, the Cultural Revolution, and the ability of literature to transform lives....a lot to cover in 184 pages. The story needed more pages. A weird shift in narrative sent the last third off the rails.

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KarenUK
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#ChinaGirl #WanderingJune @BarbaraBB @Cinfhen
I recently added this to my #tbr as its featured on a current B&N display for Books about Books....
And for anyone doing the #pop19 challenge, it works for the ‘see someone reading on TV‘ prompt.... (it‘s on the Rory Gilmore Book list) 💕📚📺

KarenUK I just spotted on goodreads you gave it 1⭐️ @Cinfhen and @LeahBergen gave it 4⭐️ .... now I‘m even more intrigued! 😂 (edited) 6mo
Cathythoughts Beautiful cover ♥️ 6mo
BarbaraBB I thought of this one too! 6mo
Cinfhen Ha!! I was BORED to death!!!!! But I was also very crabby then😁😜 6mo
marleed Those shoes are irresistible! 6mo
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EmilieGR
Pickpick

Sweet

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Lindy
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Pickpick

An engaging, funny, short (4 h) #audiobook performed by BD Wong, #translated from French by Ina Rilke. Surprisingly gentle in light of its setting during Mao‘s brutal Cultural Revolution, it‘s about intellectual freedom & personal independence, told through the escapades of two teenaged sons of doctors who are sent to be “re-educated” through working among former opium farmers in a mountain village in Sichuan in the 1970s.

Lindy Luo‘s plan to make a country girl more sophisticated through exposure to classics of Western literature reminded me of the aristocratic snobbery portrayed in The Tale of #Genji. @batsy @saresmoore 8mo
batsy Interesting parallel, now that you mention it. I love this book, but read it so long ago. 8mo
Lindy @batsy I love the way books speak with each other in unique ways, based on our individual reading experiences. Also, I love books like this that demonstrate the power of literature. 8mo
batsy @Lindy Absolutely. I was just thinking that I might want to read this again soon, because what I loved about it was how it showed me the power and worth of literature, and art in general 💖 8mo
Lindy @batsy 😁👍 8mo
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Lindy
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We had been so unlucky. By the time we had finally learnt to read properly, there had been nothing left for us to read.

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Lindy
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The only thing Luo was really good at was telling stories. A pleasing talent to be sure, but a marginal one, with little future in it. Modern man has moved beyond the age of the Thousand-and-One-Nights, and modern societies everywhere, whether socialist or capitalist, have done away with the old storytellers — more's the pity.

wanderinglynn Lovely photo! 💚 8mo
Redwritinghood I really liked this book. Hope you are enjoying it! 8mo
Lindy @wanderinglynn Thanks! It was taken at Koishikawa Korakuen in Tokyo. 8mo
Lindy @Redwritinghood Yes! Scrolling through comments on Litsy and Goodreads, I see that people are divided about the ending. I liked the ending. 8mo
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Centique
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Pickpick

Thanks so much for this book @batsy I really enjoyed it! I‘m fascinated by this period but I‘d never read about the re-education process. The descriptions of life in the little mountain village were so vivid. The boys were unlucky but also unsubdued, their small rebellions wonderful, but ... I‘ll say something else marked with a spoiler!

Centique (Cont) The best rebellion was the little seamstress! Despite being in an impossible time, the stories she has read give her the belief to transform and move past the story tellers themselves. Wish we had studied this at school - it‘s brimming with imagery and ideas. 9mo
Cathythoughts Great review & beautiful cover 9mo
Centique @Cathythoughts thanks Cathy! 😘 9mo
batsy I'm so glad you liked it! I thought the descriptions were so vivid and beautiful as well. And yes to the point about the stories we tell ❤️ When I first read it I knew very little about the Cultural Revolution, so it was really eye-opening. 9mo
Centique @batsy 💕😊 9mo
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Shley9225
Panpan

Yikes. I had to read this book for school and hated every second of it. This book is set during China‘s cultural revolution, something I had never heard about before, but this author writes as though everyone‘s already knowledgeable about the subject. Also, I didn‘t like ANY of the characters. And the book had no plot. ZERO PLOT. Nil. Nada. Zilch. And the ending sucked too. I kept hoping it would get better, but it never did.

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Wife
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Mehso-so

#StackAttack2019 Thought provoking in that it makes me wonder what life would be if books were banned...but overall, meh😐. I like the cover, but it‘s misleading because the shoes look like they belong to a child. No child characters in this book. 1/5⭐️s. A so-so is generous.

Cinfhen Read this for bookclub a few years ago! I HATED IT!!!! it was beyond boring but most of the ladies thought it was good. 9mo
Wife @cinfen They loved it? 🤔 Thank goodness that it‘s a short book if you were stuck reading it for book club. 9mo
tournevis I meber read it becuase it's not my thing. Still, considering the number of prizes it won originally in French, I'm starting to wonder if the translation is the problem. 9mo
69 likes3 comments
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kitteh_reads
Pickpick

Short, humorous pick for our library's book club. It takes place during the Chinese Revolution under Mao, and removes teenagers from families whose parents are doctors or writers and places them under the care of small villages. The process is called re-educating, helping upper society understand the benefits of learning farming and hard labor to provide for a community.

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Silvertongue
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Mehso-so

I learned a lot about what the re-reduction program in 1970s China was like. I also liked the crazy situations the boys got into. I didn‘t like how poorly “The Little Seamstress” was treated in the text—how the boys wanted to culture her and how the narrator was only interested once she became more cultured. Also she had no name :( BD Wong read character voices weird, esp. women. Nearly a pan for how much I felt like she was treated like an object

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Silvertongue
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Going to best my last years time of 17:15, but it‘ll be a close call to see if I make it to the full 24. Weird story, but enjoying having the flexibility of the audio book! #24in48

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mreads
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Mehso-so

Set during China's infamous Cultural Revolution two city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation where they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. This was just ok and the ending was jarring.
#centuryreadchallenge

tournevis I wonder if the translation into English is the problem. Because it won prizes and such, including the Goncourt, if The remember well. 11mo
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Simona
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Thank you Barbara for surprise❣️ Thanks to you, I feel very privileged, because I‘m a part of this thoughtful, bookish community 🥰

BarbaraBB You deserve it. I am happy to have met you in this awesome community 💕😘 12mo
Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks ❤️❤️ 12mo
Simona @BarbaraBB ☺️ 12mo
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APLitlife
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Pickpick

Nice little story. Great understanding of how words and books can change lives. #myreadingbuddy

Nute This book caught me by surprise. I loved it! 1y
31 likes1 comment
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APLitlife
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Reading to see if I want to add it to my curriculum. Has anyone read it?

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erzascarletbookgasm
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Two city boys are exiled to a remote village for ‘re-education‘ during China‘s Cultural Revolution. There they are required to perform manual labour until such time the authorities decide. In the village they discover a hidden stash of banned Western classics in Chinese translation and devoured them secretly, finding escape from their bleak surroundings to worlds they‘ve never imagined.
#HeyJune Day 24 #revolution

Cinfhen I somehow missed this book when it first came out, sounds really good!! 1y
Cathythoughts I love the cover ❤️ 1y
SledgeReader @erzascarletbookgasm It‘s been in my TBR way too long! Sadly I don‘t see it moving off anytime soon. #hazardofreadinglife🙄 1y
GypsyKat This does sound so good! 1y
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xicanti
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Pickpick

Apparently 2018 is the year I finally read a serious amount of Chinese literature. So far, everything I've read on this unplanned theme has dealt in some way with survival. Coincidence or national literary preoccupation?

This particular book is a wonder and a delight, what with its focus on the solace two boys take in translated Western literature. It entertained me AND taught me more about 1970s China. Ain't it great when a book does both?

xicanti Also, please tell me all your favourite Chinese novels so I can seek them out. 2y
CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian Okay, not a novel but an amazing memoir with an unbelievable story and beautiful writing. Queer content too! 2y
xicanti @CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian that sounds excellent! Stacked. 2y
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Graywacke I‘ve had this on my shelf forever. Encouraging comments. No good advice, but I need to read 2y
xicanti @Graywacke that sounds fascinating. Stacked. 2y
TobeyTheScavengerMonk This is a movie! I watched it years ago when I tried to watch all the foreign films in the local Blockbuster. I remember very little (there was a dam? a flooded village?) but I remember the music being gorgeous. 2y
xicanti @TobeyTheScavengerMonk I had no idea there was a movie! I'll look for it. 2y
erzascarletbookgasm If you haven‘t read, 1y
38 likes8 comments
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xicanti
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I finished ANOTHER BROOKLYN and started BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS while I took an #audiowalk along the Greenway. #Readathon

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Insightsintobooks
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I got this for free from a neighbor. Excited to start reading it. 😁

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Dragon
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Pickpick

I‘ve been reading this little book during lunch breaks at work. This is a very interesting story of two teenage boys sent to the countryside for re-education. I found this book especially interesting as I roomed with a Chinese exchange student whose health had been ruined by this terrible practice. Her husband had also been sent to the country to raise pigs. They worked extremely hard to pass exams and go to university outside China.

EvieBee Wow, what an experience! I adored this book and I loved the movie as well. It was directed by the author so it was nice to see on screen how he visualized his book. 2y
Dragon Thanks @EvieBee I didn‘t know there was a movie! So cool. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book. 2y
batsy The book was very memorable and I agree with @EvieBee , the movie is definitely worth watching :) Beautiful cinematography. 2y
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SaturnDoo I really enjoyed this one too. I listened to the audiobook a couple years ago. 2y
Dragon Thanks @batsy I‘m going to have to find the movie! 🐉 2y
Dragon Thanks @SaturnDoo I bet the audiobook would definitely be worth listening too. 😀🐉 2y
iread2much I loved this book, it was such a wonderful read. Like water for a dry mind 2y
Dragon Thanks @iread2much that‘s very well put . 👍😀🐉 2y
Faibka I‘ve never heard of this book but the story sound very compelling, adding it to stack! By the way I also squeeze a bit of reading during my lunch breaks at work 😁 2y
Dragon Thanks Faibka I really didn‘t know what to expect from the book so I was very happy that it was funny and interesting 👍 . I‘m trying to decide on my next lunch book. 2y
Sills @Dragon I try to read classics for my lunch reads. I like the 10 minute reading break from teaching all day.📚 2y
Dragon Thanks @Sills - I agree it‘s a better break if I can disappear into a book 2y
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erzascarletbookgasm
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Different types of #shoes for different purposes. Loved Noel Streatfield‘s shoes series when I was young. Piper Keenan‘s book was a so-so read. The tagged book and Joanne Harris‘s books are on my TBR.
#readingresolutions @Jess7

Cathythoughts ❤️shoes 2y
LeahBergen I was going to post about the Streatfeild Shoes books later today, too. ❤️❤️ (edited) 2y
batsy Streatfeild 💜 2y
Jess7 Nice! 2y
82 likes4 comments
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WhatDeeReads
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Pickpick

What a lovely little novel. My first of 2018 and I‘m not disappointed at all.

#BooksInTranslation

Louise I'm so curious about this one. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! 2y
WhatDeeReads @Louise I‘m surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. 2y
BellaBookNook I have had this book for a very long time and I am so glad you reminded me because I wanted to read it! Glad to hear you enjoyed it! 2y
WhatDeeReads @BellaBookNook it‘s a really cute little story! This writer is a master at foreshadowing. That‘s my favorite literary device. The ending surprised me. 2y
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TheAnitaAlvarez
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Pickpick

My granny got me this book the summer I graduated High School, before beginning my English degree. She chose it because it is a book about the power of words and literature, both of my passions. It‘s a beautiful novel, filled with love for books and a desire for something beyond what we are told to wish for, and I could relate to that.
#RoryGilmoresReadingChallenge

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bookandcat
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Pickpick

Book 10 of #readathon - another book I had started many months ago but didn't get very far. Able to finish it now! Brief and poetic, set amid the awful Cultural Revolution in China and the resulting "reeducation" of young men and women (and the banned books they try to track down).

22 likes2 stack adds
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tjwill
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#TBR with occupations in the titles. #fallintobooks

44 likes1 stack add3 comments
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GinEyre22
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Catching up on #jubilantjuly : Day 9, shoes on the cover

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Dragon
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This one has been chosen by a few Littens for #shoesoncovers . Do boots count?

57 likes1 comment
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erzascarletbookgasm
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From the Chinese-French author and filmmaker Dai Sijie, a semi autobiographical novel set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
#shoesoncovers #jubilantjuly @RealLifeReading

charl08 Love this story. 2y
61 likes3 stack adds1 comment
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heyitsalyssa
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Mehso-so

I've been wanting to read more fiction about China and, preferably, by Chinese authors. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is the first in this new venture of mine and, while I liked it, I didn't love it. Maybe my expectations were just set too high. All the reviews call it a miracle and a revelation of a book and I just came away a little disappointed.

BooksAndChopsticks Try Anchee Min maybe, or Amy Tan's earlier works like Joy Luck Club...? Or Any Pearl S.Buck work 🤓 (edited) 2y
heyitsalyssa @BooksAndChopsticks thank you for the recommendations. I actually just finished Joy Luck Club and really enjoyed it. I'll definitely look into the others. 2y
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tracyrowanreads
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Pickpick

It's a deft and surprisingly amusing story about reading, books, young love ambition, hope, despair, and the power of stories. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Full review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1990392913

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tracyrowanreads
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Nightstand, where on rests but a small portion of my TBRs.

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tracyrowanreads
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It figures. Just started the Sijie Dai last night, and all these show up this morning. #notreallycomplaining

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Bundoolin
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Pickpick

My last book for assigned reading this school year I will miss modern literature. Enjoyed this one very much 👌

thewanderingbookmark I loved this book! 3y
20 likes1 stack add1 comment
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Bundoolin
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Finishing this one up for class today 💯

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Bundoolin
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I've been up since seven this morning and already took the garbage out, read a chapter of burglars guide, and practiced cello. Getting a head start on my lit circle assignment for Tuesday 👌 today is gonna be a great day #bookoftheday

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Bundoolin
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New assigned reading for school. I'm excited about this one. It's really warm today, hopefully I'll get to spend some time outside 😊💯

3 likes1 stack add
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sparrowssavvy
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Pickpick

This was an awesome short read that was so easy to slide into. I loved the snippets of life in rural China in the 70's. The story highlights how the Communist regime under Mao significantly altered life for the teenagers relocated from urban life to rural areas to be "re-educated" by peasants. I loved the inclusion of Western classic literature and how those themes echoed throughout this story. Definitely a great read!

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shawnmooney
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Mehso-so

I finally read this odd little novel from 2002 about two teen boys sent to a mountain village for 'reeducation through labor' during China's Cultural Revolution. I appreciated both the comic treatment of a dark topic—the opening scene was a tour de force—and what I am coming to recognize as modern Chinese fiction's twisty warp and woof. But I totally hated the weird, jarring ending: a disjunctive twist too far.

Reviewsbylola Very interesting. I have owned this for years but I guess I never knew the plot. I am thinking I will probably never read it at this point. 🤷🏼‍♀️ 3y
tournevis Does it count as Chinese fiction if it was written in French by a French citizen of Chinese origin? Yes of course it does. It won a ton of prizes back in 2002-03. I didn't read it but many in my circle loved it. Maybe the translation​ is a factor. 3y
shawnmooney @Reviewsbylola You MUST at least read the opening scene! :-) And, who knows, you may enjoy the conclusion much better than I! 3y
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Cinfhen Wasn't such a fan, there are way better books waiting to be read @Reviewsbylola 3y
Reviewsbylola That's my problem, too many books waiting. @Cinfhen I will keep that in mind if I can even find my copy. 😂 @shawnmooney 3y
Zelma I remember being disappointed with this one too. It just didn't work overall for me. 3y
47 likes1 stack add6 comments
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GinEyre22
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#aprilbookshowers Day 7: Women in translation
Written by a man, but translated by a woman

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josie281
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💵 💵 💵 I don't need dollar bills to have fun tonight 💵 💵 💵
🎉 I LOVE CHEAP THRILLS 🎊

Remember that amazing boss of mine from last post?
Well these are the other #cheapthrills aka FREE NINTY FREE books from yesterday.
I'm spoiled. I know this.

#lyricalApril

Cinfhen 😍🎵🤘🏼🎵😍 3y
45 likes1 comment
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shawnmooney
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Suet624 Hmmm...what WOULD she say? 3y
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shawnmooney
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ramyasbookshelf I remember reading and enjoying this book years ago! The cover was so beautiful! 3y
shawnmooney @ramyasbookshelf It's a beautiful cover indeed, and quite the story! 3y
Sydsavvy I loved this book so much!!! 3y
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shawnmooney
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shawnmooney
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LeahBergen I liked this one. 👍🏼 3y
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shawnmooney
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Let's give this one a try, shall we?

quirkyreader From what I remember, it was a fairly good story. 3y
RebL My eldest read this his freshman year. I was so tickled to get to revisit it! I hope you enjoy it too. 3y
57 likes3 stack adds2 comments