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The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  235 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Set in post-World War II Shanghai, "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the "longtong," the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai's working-class neighborhoods.

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes th
Hardcover, 440 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Columbia University Press (first published 1991)
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The passage of time associated with those old jazz records was indeed a good thing; it had smoothed things out until they were strong and fine, rubbing off the superficial layers to reveal the inner grain, like gold emerging when the fire has burned away the dross. But what he saw that day was not an object, like an old jazz record, but a person.
The closest author comparison I can make to this is that of Proust, but only while ignoring all the elitist claptrap that I myself once partook of in
Stephen Durrant
Dec 12, 2010 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been looking for a modern Chinese novel that was not constructed around the political horrors China has passed through during the past one hundred years. Wang Anyi's beautifully textured novel fits the bill. One cannot quite say that it is apolitical, for the political context is always the white noise humming just outside the Shanghai apartments, restaurants, and shops where Wang Qiyao, whose life this novel traces, and her array of lovers, friends, and family mix and mingle over a perio ...more
Nov 25, 2008 Alicia rated it it was amazing
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Wang Anyi opens with exquisite descriptions of Shanghai and its distinct and mysterious longtang - neighborhoods that are as much a character as Wang Qiyao, a former beauty queen whose life has gone sadly awry. Wang Oiyao, comes together with people, only to drive them away in the end, unaware of her impact on others as her country is on its people
Aug 31, 2013 Kimfu rated it it was ok
Once more I've read a Chinese novel that I just couldn't get into. I SHOULD have been able to get into this novel because it talked about the struggles of a woman protagonist. But I just couldn't understand the character. I couldn't feel much empathy for her either. All of the time, I kept thinking, "Just what is going through her mind? Why did she do that? Why did she say that?" She seemed every bit as much a stranger to me at the end of the book as at the beginning.

And the end of the book ende
Charles Laughlin
Nov 29, 2011 Charles Laughlin rated it really liked it
Splendid translation of a fine novel, way to go Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan!
Jan 07, 2013 Sharlene rated it it was amazing
“The longtang are the backdrop of this city. Streets and buildings emerge around them in a series of dots and lines, like the subtle brushstrokes that bring life to the empty expanses of white paper in a traditional Chinese landscape painting. As day turns into night and the city lights up, these dots and lines begin to glimmer. However, underneath the glitter lies an immense blanket of darkness – these are the longtang of Shanghai.”

Wang’s writing style takes a while to get into. The Song of Eve
Feb 10, 2017 Celine rated it it was amazing
I like how she depicts a real Shanghai with an elegant and poetic touch. I love Wang Qiyao, she's a Shanghai woman to the core. No one could bring out the true DNA of Shanghai without loving it from bottom of heart.
Jan 24, 2017 Victor rated it liked it
A interesting story about Shanghai during a tough Changing times in Gina
Jaimie Lau
Sep 13, 2016 Jaimie Lau rated it it was ok
Where the book falls down is its inability to engage the reader and make them willing to invest into the characters themselves. Wang Qiyao, the focus of the novel, is truly awful. What is worse is the fact that the author seems to be out-of-touch with how the character comes across to the reader and does not feel the need to justify or apologise for Wang Qiyao's abhorrent attitude to her so-called friends and suitors, nor her seemingly never-ending belief that the world revolves around her. With ...more
Sep 13, 2011 Aquavit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, book-club
This ranks up there as one of the best books I've ever read, I think. There were times that her repetition became a little overbearing, but what a ride. There is one phrase that, if not a subtle nod to Geoff Dyer's final pages of The Missing of the Somme, should be:

The light with which she is so familiar has shone for hundreds and thousands of years, and it will always be there.

& Dyer:

Perhaps that is what is meant by ‘lonelyness’ — knowing that even at your moments of most exalted emotion,
Jenny Taylor
Jan 28, 2014 Jenny Taylor rated it did not like it
Like other readers, I found the book difficult to truly enjoy. The first few chapters drag on in flowery prose that make the reader wonder whether there is actually a plot to this novel. When we (finally) are introduced to the main character, there is nothing compelling us to have strong feelings about her (either positive or negative). In fact, none of the characters were well developed. As for the plot, there is no defined beginning, middle, and end. The book reads more like a chronicle of Wan ...more
Jul 28, 2008 Keith rated it really liked it
Wang Anyi is apparently one of the more critically acclaimed authors in the Chinese-speaking-world. The novel traces the fortunes and tragedies of Wang Qiyao, who wins second prize in a late 1940s Shanghai beauty pageant, becomes the mistress of an army colonel, and after his death lives a greatly diminished life in Shanghai, always on the edge of history but unbound by its strictures she lives for fashion and the pleasures of her past. The buildup to the inevitably tragic conclusion (the novel' ...more
Miz Kizzy
Sep 03, 2012 Miz Kizzy rated it really liked it
I picked it up and put it down again so many times in the first week, I thought I'd never grasp it. The prose, at first, is gravid with descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and moods of light, I rolled my eyes to Cleveland and back, but kept the book by the door as my smoke break read.

Now that I actually *care* about moods of light, the pages skip from 218 to 283! WTH?

***MUCH later, it's a very good novel, though you may be temped to speed read parts, go ahead, but it's worth the pay
Feb 24, 2009 Colleen rated it really liked it
The city of Shanghai, its intricacies and nuances, adaptations and survival, mirrored the shifting responses of the female protagonist to chinese history. A haunting story, lives fluttering brightly then struggling. The narrator's voice remains detached throughout, an almost clinical recounting of people and swirling events, choices made in innocence or haste that push the characters into narrowing futures.
Dec 01, 2015 Beth rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
This entire book should be shredded. I hated every page. I wanted to like it because it's set in an interesting time and place (hence the extra star), but that is not a shortcut to actually good writing. The characters aren't fleshed out, the plot is meandering and there is so much "telling" instead of "showing." It can't just be a bad translation; this is a bad bad book. It is so unnecessarily long and miserable; I've never read a book with a more apt title. GAH!
This book received rave reviews, but I thought it was rather long. The author's writing style is not terse by any standard, though it may have suffered during the translation. The subtitle is apt. I think it should be read as the story of Shanghai rather than that of the main character. I would hesitate before giving a general recommendation to read it.
Aug 25, 2008 Kerry rated it did not like it
This had a starred review in Publishers' Weekly, and although I only made it about 100 pages in I just couldn't take it any more. I was very disappointed in this book. The prose style of the first chapter nearly did me in but I kept on plugging through. I could find no reason to sympathize with these characters. Yuck.
Ann Holland
Dec 19, 2015 Ann Holland rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written novel in which the neighborhoods of Shanghai are as much characters as the people who inhabit them. This is an elegant book meant to be read slowly and savored. Although Wang Qiyao's story spans four decades (1940s - 80s), the history of China remains in the background. It is Wang Qiyao's inability to maintain human relationships that creates her sorrow.
Jun 19, 2008 Kc rated it liked it
I liked Song in large part because it evoked a time and place with for which I had very little reference and taught me about it. IT did so through the eyes of a sympathetic character who brings you into her world and you live her life with her through the ups and downs and the choices she makes.
Mar 02, 2010 Michele marked it as to-read
Translated from Chinese into English by my Auntie Susan.

New York Times Book Review: "The novel is particularly illuminating and incisive on the subject of female friendship, on what draws girls and women together and then drives them apart. "
Dec 17, 2013 Parachute1013 rated it it was amazing
This is a sad story actually.I don't like the endding in fact.I wonder what if Wang Qiyao lived a long and lonely life instead.However,I think the whole life of this legendary woman is a enchanting mistery.
This novel worth reading again.
Nicholas Diluzio
Sep 12, 2015 Nicholas Diluzio rated it really liked it
A powerful personification of Shanghai told through a woman's tragic life, from her teens to her late 40s. Wang Anyi weaves through characters' vivid lives with the utmost perception and wistfulness as they play out their revolving roles.
Sep 03, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok
Actually, although this book was recommended by a friend, I couldn't finish reading it. The writing is turgid and hard to get into, and the storyline depressing. I read about one-quarter of the way through, then gave up and skipped to the end.
May 20, 2016 Mari rated it it was ok
I don't have much to say about this book, except that it took me far too long to get through it and that I did not like it one bit. It's not bad, it's just not something I would read for my own pleasure. I just read it because I had to.
Audrey Mei
Jun 26, 2016 Audrey Mei rated it it was amazing
This book made me miss Shanghai so much! It is a classic of Shanghai literature. The story, the pace, the careful description of a city that, actually, doesn't exist anymore. This is the kind of book to read to see how the cosmopolitan Chinese lived in the moment 50 years ago.
Sep 27, 2009 Tyra marked it as gave-up-on
I want to like this book. The synopsis sounds interesting but the prose is hard for me to get past. I've picked it up 3 times and can't get past page 8. Maybe I need to be in a different place and time to read this book.
Jan 17, 2012 Cami rated it liked it
Read to get ready for visit to Shanghai. Learned about what it was like there - especially during mid 1900's. Can't say I loved it but it was a good read.
Jan 27, 2015 Mizuki marked it as to-read
Some years ago there's a movie based on this novel, but I never am interested enough to watch it, and I don't think I'll be interested enough to read the book any time soon.
May 09, 2014 Marc rated it it was amazing
tragic...reads like a Gong Li movie...confirms a long standing theory that there is no heart so broken as the broken heart of a Chinese girl
Jan 05, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
An epic story of an ordinary girl who epitomizes the city of Shanghai itself. Beautifully written description of the transformation of a country post World War II.
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Wang Anyi (王安忆, born in Tong'an in 1954) is a Chinese writer, and currently the chairwoman of Writers' Association of Shanghai. The daughter of a famous writer and member of the Communist Party, Ru Zhijuan(茹志鹃), and a father who was denounced as a Rightist when she was three years old, Wang Anyi writes that she "was born and raised in a thoroughfare, Huaihai Road." As a result of the Cultural Revo ...more
More about Wang Anyi...

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