Sophia's Reviews > The Girl Who Played Go

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
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's review
Apr 08, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 2012, china, france, historical-fiction, japan, world-war-ii
Read in April, 2012

Set in 1930s Manchuria propped up by the Japanese, The Girl who Played Go is a work of historical fiction set in a time with lots of dramatic potential. Unfortunately, Beijing-born writer Shan Sa failed to make the historical moment come alive in this sparse, austere tale of love and war. Originally written in French, the story is told in short, alternating chapters by two unnamed first-person narrators: the first is the title character, a teenager from an educated family on the cusp of womanhood, and her opponent at go, a Japanese military officer posing as a civilian. Their paths cross in the square where people gather to play go, and their interaction is mainly through the black and white pieces in this ancient game of strategy. However, they both feel like unrealistic stock characters with very predicable passions. While some might find the prose lyrical, dream-like yet precise, I thought most of the story, which includes quite a bit of sex and some graphically violent scenes, was told instead of shown. I was disappointed.
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