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Publisher's Summary

Acclaimed novelist Yu Hua became the first Chinese author to win the distinguished James Joyce Foundation Award. Controversial in his own country for his biting satire, he creates insightful portraits of Chinese society.Step-brothers Baldy Li and Song Gang couldn't be more different. While Baldy is a girl-chasing teen, Song is quiet and studious. The two come of age in a vibrant Chinese culture struggling with constant change.
©2009 Eileen Chow and Carlos Rojas; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
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Critic Reviews

Baldy Li, the hero of Yu's epic third novel, comes into the world on the same day his father slips to a disgraceful demise while ogling women in a public toilet. The incident is big news in tiny Liu Town, China, and leaves the family tainted with shame. Yet even as Baldy Li and his mother, Li Lan, cower under the taunts of their neighbors, things begin to change for the better. The tall, handsome Song Fanping falls in love with Li Lan and marries her. Li Lan gains new happiness and Baldy Li gains an older stepbrother, Song Gang. Together, the two boys weather the changes of the Cultural Revolution, reform and globalization, and Yu's unflinching narrative, by turns tragic and hilarious, shows ordinary lives being broken down and built up again. (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By mandylouise on 07-04-09

Quirky, original, compelling and readable

Something a little different, a little strange in places and a rollercoaster ride through China's recent history. I liked this book a lot for exposing me to another culture, in a bizarre and unique way, for being irreverent and bold and for melding that perfectly with a moving and emotional story. I like stories like The Joy Luck Club or Memoirs of a Geisha but sometimes find they take themselves a bit too seriously and I desire something spunkier but that still deals with cultural, historical and even tragic events. This book hit it just right. The book uses the story of two loyal and dedicated brothers (despite frequent rifts and betrayals) to personify the rapid cultural changes in China. If this kind of story interests you and as long as you aren't offended by strong language you'll enjoy this book.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Lawrence on 07-10-10

China's "Midnight Children"

If you enjoyed Gunter Grass's "The Tin Drum" and Salman Rushdie's "Midnight Children," you'll like this novel.

The NY Times review too harshly criticizes the translators' inability to capture the nuances of the many Chinese aphorisms. The same criticism could be made of every translation. But this defect doesn't diminish the overall tone and power of the book. If anything, it reminds the reader he is dealing with a different culture.

The story sketches a post-modern/magical realism bildungsroman of two Chinese half-brothers from the crushing poverty of The Cultural Revolution to the hyper-materialism of present China.

For me, the most compelling part of the book was the cruelty visited on the brothers' father by the Red Guard.

There is also a love story involving a beautiful village girl for whom the brothers competed. But I won't spoil; you'll have to listen yourself.

Highly recommended.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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