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Binu and the Great Wall

2.83 of 5 stars 2.83  ·  rating details  ·  187 ratings  ·  31 reviews

Knopf Canada welcomes one of China’s most acclaimed and bestselling writers–author of Raise the Red Lantern–to the list with a fascinating retelling of a magical story–already an international bestseller in China and Europe.

Through Binu’s extraordinary story, Su Tong illuminates one of China’s most magical myths. In Peach village, crying is forbidden. But as a child, Binu

Hardcover, 291 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Canongate Books (first published 2006)
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A wonderful myth, but this retelling of it lacks energy. I don't know if the fault for this lies in oversentimentality on Su Tong's part, or through some less than insightful translation, but this quickly became very skimmable, unlike Su Tong's other books. I would recommend easily Rice or Raise the Red Lantern over this one.
I wasn't familiar with the myth of Meng Jiangnu upon which Binu is based. As such, the book didn't really resonate with me and I found it, at times, hair pullingly ponderous and slow.
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Retelling the story of one woman’s journey in search for her husband, who was brought to build the Great Wall, this story follows the hardships and challenges that Binu had to face as the result of her decision to go after her husband, Qiliang.

The story starts off with the story of how people who live in the areas around North Mountain have been forbidden to cry. Even babies and young children are taught to never shed tears from their eyes. But to cry is only natural, after all, and these people
This story is about a womans jouney to find her husband.

We start the book thinking that she is incredibly devoted and willing to sacrifice her life i. An order to bring her husband (who has been taken away to work on building the Great Wall) his winter clothes.

The body of the story shows us all of her trials and tribulations as she trys to reach her husband. She is robbed, molested, bought and sold several times (including to a dead man) and imprissoned. However, in the end, she makes it to the
Based on the Chinese myth of Meng Jiangnu who brought down the Great Wall with her tears of mourning, this instalment of the Canongate Myths series has ended up a surreal fairytale against a backdrop of a country in despair.

Binu comes from a village where crying from your eyes is forbidden as doing so will mean your death is imminent. The women of the village get round this by shedding their tears via various body parts. When her husband is taken away to work on the Great Wall, Binu is grief-str
Why bother (re-)telling a story?

If most of the volumes of the myths series so far have struggled to do anything but rehash the same tired Greco-Roman mythology, Chinese novelist Su Tong's (Raise The Red Lantern) contribution to the Canongate Myths series at least adds a different perspective. It's apparently based on the tale of Binu, the wife of a man conscripted to build the Chinese wall, who walked all the way across China to make sure he had something warm to wear when winter came, only to e
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I really wanted to love this book, as I've read "Raise the Red Lantern", "My Life, as Emperor", and "Rice" and enjoyed them all immensely. While it's true I haven't read a novel by Su Tong in a few years, I have to say I still consider "Rice" within my top three favorite novels I've ever read. With that being said, I just didn't feel the same sense of enjoyment for this novel. While I understand that it was written to fit into an already established series and it's a retelling of a myth, so it w ...more
Marthe Bijman
Su Tong is the writer of the immensely depressing novel Rice, which is about poor Chinese people who make each other even more tormented than they already are, and ends more wretchedly than it begins. His latest novel, Binu and the Great Wall, (translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt) has much the same effect on the reader, but not only due to the unsympathetic characters and unsettling plot.


The text of the bleak and puzzling novel is made difficult to digest b
This is a weirdly written book. I have not read many Chinese authors so there may be cultural gap, but it feels like the author is trying demonstrate pathos for the protagonist but only succeeds in making here one of the most pathetic (no pun intended!) and irritating characters I have ever read. A quick browse in wikipedia shows that the myth Lady Meng Jian Nu is about a proud woman who spurns the emperor and gives up her life after bringing down a portion of the wall. Even after giving allowan ...more
A retelling of the 'Myth of Meng' - no, I didn't know it either - which in this version tells the tale of Binu's odyssey to the Great Wall to take winter clothes to her husband who has been conscripted to work there. He is dead, she cries. She cries a lot. She cries so much that a section of the Great Wall collapses. I suppose this is a tale of tremendous devotion, but unfortunately I never got to like or admire Binu; she was mostly annoying and in the end somewhat pathetic. All the other charac ...more
I am pretty sure that surrealist authors got their ideas from this very particular and ancient Chinese legend. Proof:
1) Characters who cry from their feet/hands/other body parts and leave wet trails wherever they go;
2) Blind frogs that search for their sons while guiding said characters across China;
3) A weather that shifts and changes based on the whims of a certain eponymous character;
4) Human deer-children who sell eponymous character to a dead man.

And that is barely the tip of the iceberg!
This one is very good, and got me interested in some new mythology I had not heard before from China. It's structured like an odyssey, and the main character is someone you can really get behind. The great wall looms large in this book, as it is being built and affecting the lives of all around. It's one of the better books in the Canongate Myths series, though none seem to be able to compete with the Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.
** This is just a QUICK REVIEW of my thoughts on the book **

Tried but couldn't get into it at all! It starts off about how people were punished for crying so they 'learnt' to cry using other body parts; ears, mouths, hair, etc. I just couldn't get into it at all.

Is there a Happy Ending? I don’t know – I didn’t finish it.

Content Rating: I don’t remember.

Romance Rating: I don’t remember.
Katie M.
This may have been an extraordinary book and I didn't realize it. Maybe it's a very Chinese narrative and I'm a very American reader? But I found it PAINFUL to get through. Slogging through the grim, unengaging, everything-that-could-go-wrong-will-go-wrong narrative felt kind of like pulling all the pots and pans off my shelf one by one and hitting myself over the head with them.
Užasno me smara. Potpuno neočekivano. Ovo je prva knjiga "Mitova" sa kojom se davim već mesecima. Pročitaću je svakako ali sad samo želim da je maknem sa "trenutno čitam"-liste.
Za sad ću je oceniti jednom zvezdom a kad je završim ukoliko budem mislio da je to malo (u šta čisto sumnjam) dodaću joj.
Joyless. Just about everyone our weak, superstitious, sobbing heroine meets is villainous at worst, uninterested at best. A total slog I'd have abandoned halfway through if it weren't part of the Canongate Myths series. And then the book ends as if they'd forgotten to print the last five pages. Ugh.
Started off sounding cool enough, but became too surreal (to the point of ridiculousness). Felt, at the end, like all the loose ends were just left loose. Also, most of the characters Binu comes across on her journey are just so unpleasant (to put it nicely), reading it sometimes felt like work.
May 05, 2010 Linda added it
Su Tong is a very good writer but I'm not sure about this one - it could be the flat translation. I'll give it another go in Chinese. I'm about to read his new book in the original language. It's a pity there's no way to add Chinese books to this site.
Dec 24, 2008 Amber is currently reading it
This is one of the Cannon Gate series on Myth. I am reading the whole series with my Mom and daughter. Great tales, by great writers. The project is 100 books on myth all by solicicted authors. Nice
Meh. Interesting. I picked this up when I wanted to learn more about China and Chinese folklore. I'd have liked it to be better, more entertaining, but it was very interesting.
This is a retelling of an old Chinese folk tale as part of the excellent Canongate Myths series. The simple storytelling and vocabulary works for a folk tale.
Not a great read. It did have some redeeming features, enough to get thorough the book, but not enough to recommend it to others.
chinese folk tale of women travelling to find her husband who was kidnapped to work on construction of great wall - not for me
Abandoned on p.80 - couldn't make it to p.100. I found the style unreadable. Maybe I'll give a go later
Started off ok but lost me as it progressed. Flat. ? Translation
This has been a very disappointing book.
I found it a bit episodic and dream-like.
Strangely and hauntingly poetic.
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