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Brothers: A Novel (兄弟 [Xiong Di] #1)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,088 ratings  ·  162 reviews
A bestseller in China, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.

Here is China as we've never seen it before, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history, from the madness of the Cultural Revolution to the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Yu Hua, award-winning author o
Paperback, 656 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Anchor (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,876)
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Seth T.
To begin with, a poorly-devised haiku review:

Yu's roller coaster
Is careless with emotions.
Like a bad girlfriend


I'm not really sure what to make of Brothers. I liked it, that much is certain.

The story is expansive and the characters indelible. The insight into the development of Chinese culture over the last four decades was enlightening. The episodes related were heartfelt, both funny and tragic. And sometimes even both simultaneously. I was involved for the book's entirety (wh
When I first picked up this book in Chinese in China, I was younger and my heart was fainter - I did not have the courage to finish even the first half. Years later, I picked up this novel again and finished reading it in almost two separate sittings. For someone who spent more than a decade in China (partially rural) and more than a decade in the US, the character descriptions and actions are very much close to home and real. I wish I did not have to read the final 1/3 of the book but that is j ...more
I'm a classic book reader. i like to experiment a little on japanese, chinese and korean authors. so far I have read murakami but I like this book better. I call this an idiotic book, light and comical to the point that you would rather not sleep so you can finish the book. The author is a two thumbs up for me:
Stephen Durrant
I wanted to like this book both because I admire several of Yu Hua's previous novels and because a book this large requires a considerable investment in time. While "Brothers" contains some sections of great humor and others of heart-wrenching tragedy, much of it is like a bande dessinée without pictures: flat, cartoon-like characters of extreme, unbelievable behavior. Moreover, I found the obsession with virginity, hymen-reconstruction surgery, and breast and penis enhancement, well, a bit tire ...more
This is a funny, sad, bawdy (be patient, it is terribly bawdy towards the end) and compelling book. It is the story of two brothers beginning before the Cultural Revolution and ending in the 21st century and it is the story of China emerging into a modern country with all the good and the bad that comes along with such change. The story is set in a small town and is told in what seems to be a simple, repetitive manner. The characters are merely a way to move the story and they have no particular ...more
I found the tone of this book quite confusing. Early on the book was supposed to be funny and the tone worked for that. After, many awful things happened, but the tone was still identical to the comedic parts. Also, people's motivation didn't make sense to me - perhaps because I don't understand Chinese people. I couldn't understand how one brother could be so selfish or how people were rarely honest with even those closest to them.

I read this in a book group and we couldn't have had a larger di
This book is amazing. It goes from being hilarious, to depressing, to jaw-dropping and back it made me feel like I'm on a roller coaster. This book reads like it has 300 pages - not once did I think something was redundant or drawn out. In fact, I felt it stopped almost too sudden.

The characters are wonderfully drawn out and jump off the page. This despite the fact that the book often reads like a fable.

Most interesting is the cultural revolution and how it affected the town of Liu. It's interes
this book is a wild ride through china during the cultural revolution & current times. it's disgusting & repulsive, informative, sad, comic, & dark. i'll let you know if i think of any other adjectives. i've never read a book like it before. it's divided into book 1 and 2. i preferred book 1.
Andra Watkins
It probably is not fair of me to rate this book, because I couldn't finish it. If you want to read pages and pages and pages of words with no point, Brothers is the book for you.
Though it is the longest book I have read in a long time (641 pages), this book went by relatively quickly. It is plot-driven and easy to read, but those are not things I necessarily appreciate in books. The novel starts off well. The brothers' childhoods consist of extreme ups and downs, and their bond as well as the horror of the Chinese Cultural Revolution is extremely believable. Other characters are likewise interesting and layered. During the first two hundred pages or so, I felt deeply in ...more
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Jonathan Mckay
I read this after reading 活着 thinking that since I liked the former, 兄弟 would also be worth reading, and good Chinese practice. It was good Chinese practice, but not really worth reading.

There were good moments in this book, such the stories of 李光头 (li) as a child that reminded me of Huck Finn or a good episode of the Simpsons. The depiction of the cultural revolution, especially after witnessing red armbands suddenly appear on neighbors during the recent protests against Japan, was vivid and f
Bookmarks Magazine

Because of its subversive portrait and critique of China's oppression and soul-changing capitalism, Brothers, while a best seller in China, also raised some eyebrows. Critics in the United States, however, embraced Brothers for its enlightening look at the country's social and economic transformation. To be sure, the novel is a ribald satire of both the Cultural Revolution and the distortion of its ideals, and the crude, unsophisticated humor and plot may alienate some readers. Some of this may

This is a humorous, satirical and tragic coming of age story about two brothers coming of age during the Cultural Revolution in China. It follows the protagonist from the age of about 5-8 all the way up to their 40s. The book gets 4 stars because it meets my most important criteria in a book. Did I care about what happened to the characters? Yes, I did. The two protagonists are well fleshed-out and the novel does a good job of showing you what motivates them rather than just telling you, somethi ...more
I finally finished this monster (and monstrosity) of a book after three months and several library checkouts. I don't know why I bothered to finish it. Brothers is a 600+ page tale of two step-brothers who vow to stick together no matter what happens throughout their lives. The beginning of the book felt repetitive, but the book ends up feeling choppy. I didn't feel sympathetic towards any of the characters (Song Gang is the closest I got, but ultimately he was just too boring), or connected to ...more
Clara Mazzi
Un libro potente e geniale. Una sorta di "La vita è bella" applicata alla rivoluzione culturale cinese. Primo libro di Yu Hua, primo penso di una lunga serie. Autore geniale, che alterna con grande maestria lo humor, l'orrore, la dolcezza, lo smarrimento. Un libro di denuncia dell'umanità affrontato meravigliosamente dal punto di vista di due bambini che stanno crescendo, bambini in cui il lettore e l'individuo si identifica completamente e perfettamente. Il senso di smarrimento, di angoscia e d ...more
Linda Schell
Yu Hua, author of Brothers, has won several awards, among them the James Joyce Award in 2002. Mr. Hua is known all over the world.

In Brothers he takes his readers through the brutal, violent Cultural Revolution, painting portraits of ordinary people becoming monsters, and contrasting that dark time by carrying the reader to the extreme materialism many Chinese enjoy today. I was impressed with Mr. Hua’s understanding of human nature, especially the Chinese mindset.

Mr. Hua dazzled me with his s
THe book is a little long at over 600 pages, but it reads fast. At times tragedy, at times comedy, it looks like a kind of Chinese soap opera. The main framework of the story is clichéd - brotherly love and betrayal, as are most of the characters - rather one-dimensional and easy to summarize in 2-3 main traits.

However, I really got to care about the protagonists, root for them and be angry at their mistakes. Although the author relies heavily on clichés, he handles them well and then there's l
Yeah, it was OK. The beginning is a 20-page hilarious paean to the female bottom but the book loses its way shortly after that. The characters don't seem to develop in any way. There is an element of fable in this story that seems to stiffen the plot development. I don't think it's a translation issue.
Andres Eguiguren
A great rambling beast of a novel. It was published in two parts in China, and I must say that I greatly enjoyed the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the one-volume English edition. This is set during the Cultural Revolution as the non-biological brothers Baldy Li and Song Gang experience the hardships and atrocities of that nearly incomprehensible era. Although I have read many non-fiction accounts of the events of 1966-1976, some of the scenes in this novel were the most shocking and moving that I've ever ...more
This was a strange one, but I am not Chinese. For me, it was a good (but not great) allegory of life in China in transition over the last two generations, but it was overwritten, and the relentless profanity was too much. Not for the squeamish.
What no one ever told me: this book is X-rated.
I would count humiliation and gore as part of the R-rating. As Chinese book, I have a bit of understanding that Chinese culture always likes to portray martyrs and include multiple deaths in media. However, it is hard for me to juxtapose the black comedy, tragedies, and utter absurdity of certain events. In some way, Brothers embodies all the different elements in theater and drama; the whole book is imbued with each of them that I sometimes feel am
The first half of the book was melodramaticly amazing with a touch of magic realism. The second half was probably the most disgustingly sexist material I've ever read. If I could give it 5 negative stars, I would.
The characters of this book were either so contemptible, or such POllyanna's that I finally just gave up. Which is not to say I didn't read like 300 pages of this unecessarily long tome.
護 光
have you ever read a book which is delightful at the beginning but awful in the end? this is one of it. 5 stars for the 1st book, -2 stars for the 2nd.
Inizialmente non mi aveva proprio presa, tanto che pensavo di abbandonarlo perchè mi sembrava che si dilungasse troppo a parlare di futilità. Diventa interessante a partire dagli albori della rivoluzione culturale. Da lì la narrazione assume toni tragici, stemperati dall'ingenuità dei due protagonisti che osservano tutto con occhi bambini e da quel fantastico personaggio che è Song Fanping (mi ha ricordato molto Benigni in "La vita è bella").
Vengono narrati episodi atroci, che spesso fanno accap
Audiobook...............Could not continue beyond the first 20 minutes. The sexist vulgarity was atrocious!
This fine novel explores the transitions from poor to wealth, village to city, an agragarian economy to communal to capitalist, childhood to adult, companionship to alienation.

There is much here that readers of Weber and Marx would identify, to be sure. This understanding of context that Yu Hua brings to his characters enriches the novel and anchors the struggles of the characters in a tangible way and provides a relevancy to the reader, and the reader's life, regardless of the one's society or
Brian Ross
It took me months to finish this book, alternating between steady reading and long breaks. I nearly packed it in several times - yet, I kept coming back. The novel traces the story of the inter-twined lives of two half-brothers, who are children during the Cultural Revolution, and grow into middle age during the rapid economic changes unleashed by Deng which led to the "capitalism with Chinese characteristics" of today. Other reviewers have described the story as a metaphor for the changes in Ch ...more
A delightfully bawdy read. I'm not sure how much Brothers teaches about contemporary Chinese history other than it's still in the midst of a massive, nearly out-of-control transformation where the progress made equals that still anticipated--but that's pretty evident to anyone with a CNN ticker-bar awareness of recent Chinese history. Potential readers hoping for deeper insight than this are browsing the wrong title.

Brother's achieves some success in putting a face on the people driving the Chin
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Yu Hua is a Chinese author, born April 3, 1960 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
Yu Hua has written four novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His most important novels are Chronicle of a Blood Merchant and To Live.
More about Yu Hua...

Other Books in the Series

兄弟 [Xiong Di] (2 books)
  • Arricchirsi è glorioso (Brothers, Seconda Parte)

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