Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Photo © Jacques Sassier © Gallimard Editions
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sajie ( 戴思杰 )
Novel, International Fiction
208 Pages
published in 2000
Anchor Books


During China's Cultural Revolution, books were banned, children of well-off parents were sent off alone to work in the rural communities, and the government held a fear of anything that did not blatantly support the movement. It was a time of darkness throughout the country, and where regulations and impediments became more important than all else. This is the time period of which Dai Sajie writes in his novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. A story of love, of jealousy, and of children becoming men and women in this critical time frame in China's government.

In this novel, two city boys are sent to work in the fields in the country. While there they meet and fall for the tailor's daughter, who proves to be the jewel to be had. This little seamstress, who is more beautiful than any of the other girls (at least in the opinion of her suitors).All three of them, the seamstress, Luo and Ma (the narrator) become so obsessed with reading these forbidden books that they are willing to risk it all, for they could be severely punished for their attempts at obtaining any book which is not governmental propaganda.

The longer I waited to review Balzac and the Little Seamstress, the more it sunk in, the more I just really did love it. I really did. I bought this a year ago, mostly because the cover completely captivated me and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. It was actually even better that I expected, and you had better believe that I had height expectations. The simple and yet stout style of Dai Sijie is perfect for the book. He has written a superb gem here, the inside of the book is even better than the outside! I loved the main characters, the writing was just right and the story/plot couldn't have been any better. Seriously, it was just so good. Plus, it was about another country, and I love to read abroad!

If it could possibly get any better, it does. For all of us who are obsessed with books, it has a hidden special element of attraction. Can you even imagine if all books that were not written to glorify the current government were banned? What would become of us? I became completely entranced. This gets a full five chickens from me peeps, no doubt. So stop drooling over that beautiful cover and start drooling over the inside!

What would you do if books were banned? Can we even comprehend that here with all the freedoms we have?

[stellar+five+chicken.<span class=



22 comments:

Meghan said...

I've got this one, now I want to read it! Great review.

violetcrush said...

I have been wanting to read this book. As you said the cover has captivated me too, glad you liked it.

Scribacchina said...

You seem to be reading a lot of extremely good books lately... I'll keep my eyes open for this one as well.

Tricia said...

I totally agree with you. This book gets under your skin, in a good way. I know I won't forget it any time soon.

Madeleine said...

I read this book in it's French version a few years ago and liked it a lot.

stateofdenmark2 said...

I bought this book years ago for the same reason (the cover caught my eye) and I still haven't read it. You have convinced me to do so. I also read The Invention of Hugo Cabret after your review and fell in love with it. Thanks for all the recommendations.

joanna said...

I'm too embarassed to admit how long this is has been sitting on my shelf! And to answer your question - I have absolutely no idea what I would do if books were banned. I find it hard to imagine such a world, even though it exists in so many books (and in the world!). Have you read Fahrenheit 451?

bermudaonion said...

The cover captivates me too. I really want to read this book because I love stories set in other cultures.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

My husband and I used to go to the Soviet Union for teaching trips, and people there would BEG that we hide books on our bodies and smuggle them in - ANY books. Even more popular there than Hershey's chocolate, which was worth gold!

Ramya said...

YAYY!! I am glad you liked this one!:) I enjoyed reading it too!

wordlily said...

I watched the movie based on this book years ago now. It was captivating. Lovely. I haven't read the book yet.

claire said...

I'm always drawn to books set in China. I was waiting for what you thought of this and was hoping it would get the happy chicken award. So now I have to read it, too. :D

Alyce said...

I've had this one on my list for a few years. I guess I'm going to have to find some time for it sooner than later. Great review!

Laura said...

This story slightly reminds me of Farenheit 451, or some other such futuristic society. It is difficult for me to imagine living in circumstances where most books aren't allowed. I am painfully aware that I do not read very much about other countries, and I definitely need to!

Corinne said...

I loved this one too, I think especially those of us who love books find that it makes us think a lot about what we'd do if WE couldn't have access to books :)

S. Krishna said...

What a great review! I'm adding this to my TBR list now.

megan said...

Thanks for sharing this review :) I've seen this book around in shops a lot the last few years, and was always remotely interested - now I'm completely interested and have added it to my list! It sounds wonderful.

You might also like the Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa - sounds like it might be in a similar vein.

Kailana said...

I have wanted to read this book forever and still have not got around to it!

Ti said...

This is one that was very popular awhile back and when a book is popular, my radar malfunctions in some way and I push it to the back of my shelf. I don't know why I do that!

Based on your 5 chicken review I am going to have to pull it out.

Elizabeth said...

I had no idea what this book was about, but now I really want to read it!

booklineandsinker said...

the cover of this novel is beautiful and i love to read books that are set abroad. your review really intrigued me--i want to find out more about the culture and the banning of books. thank you so much for posting this review--and i agree that the longer i wait after reading a book, the more time i have to digest.

Trish said...

I just picked this one up as well and was thinking about squeezing it in for the OT challenge (you know I love reading abroad as well!). I'm so glad you liked it because I thought I heard a hint of hesitation in your voice when you were doing one of your read-a-thon videos. Honestly, I love the books that hit me more after they've sunk in a little. Sometimes the pow is so powerful that it take a bit to fully realize.