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I'll be honest, when I bought this, I was taking a punt at an unknown writer, with material unknown to me. I listened to the free sample, and I really liked the narrators voice. Over some 8 years and 500 plus books, I've worked it out that spending 10 hours or so with someone who's voice you can't stand is a special kind of hell. A bad narrator can kill even the finest written work.
No fears here, Angela Lin is superb, getting the awkward Chinese pronunciations on the nail, and carrying the whole thing forward in a most satisfactory way.
The writing is slick, and powerful, and to my eyes and ears anyway, seems pretty accurate and believable. I felt I learned a little about recent Chinese history and got a fair glimpse into the country, which hitherto has been a closed book for me, even though I've been there twice:)
This is excellent fare, one of the top ten this year, for me.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
A few years ago, I lived in Beijing for 4 months with my Chinese American husband. Having studied a little Chinese myself, and having experienced a bit of the life of an ex-pat woman in China, I was drawn to this book because I have rarely read about a similar topic.
I liked this book on a lot of levels, but there were also things that could have been better. First, the good: It is a simply marvelous depiction of modern China and the cultural clashes between old and new, East and West, that continue to play themselves out, even more than ten years since the book was written. The author obviously knows a LOT about China. In addition, the fact that the narrator had flawless Mandarin tones made the listening experience so very satisfying too, as I was able to pick up words here and there. I always like love stories, especially cross-cultural ones, and the love story here did not fail to please. It was satisfying, too, that the main characters were not perfect individuals but were both very damaged in their own ways. One of the final scenes, in which Lin confronts Alice about her many love affairs with Chinese men, is a searing indictment of the America sexual fetish for Asians, but with a gender bender: the person who chases after Chinese lovers is a woman, not a man.
I am only giving this book 4 stars because I felt that some parts of the plot were unrealistic or far-fetched and some of the characters (Spencer, especially), were underdeveloped. But as this is primarily a sketch of place, not of character, I'd still recommend the book for anyone who wants to learn more about modern China and the place of Wai Guo Ren (foreigners) in the Middle Kingdom.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful