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Chinese Whiskers: A Novel
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Chinese Whiskers: A Novel

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  203 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Chinese Whiskers by Pallavi Aiyar is a charming fable set against the landscape of contemporary Beijing, seen through the eyes of two cats.

Soyabean is a middle class cat looked after by a grandmother who embodies traditional Chinese morality. Tofu is born to a stray cat mother in a backyard dustbin. They are brought together when they are adopted by foreigners, who live in
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published December 11th 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published September 1st 2012)
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3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  203 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Sundarraj Kaushik
The book is about the lives of two kittens adopted by a foreigner in China. One female, Tofu, from the streets and the other a male, Soyabean, is adopted from a litter of kittens of a cat that is living with an old man and old woman. The old woman has a son whom the cats do not like as he likes to torture them. Both of them live a protected life in the foreigner's house. It is a world of difference from the one that they lived in their mother's place.

The brother of Tofu from the streets visits t
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adoro i gatti!! Era quindi impossibile che non mi piacesse questo libro che ha come protagonisti due simpatici maomi (gattini) pechinesi: Soia e Tofu.
Spesso mi ritrovo a pensare che se potessi rinascere (e potessi scegliere), vorrei essere un gatto, ma purtroppo non sempre la vita di un gatto è fortunata..
La piccola Tofu, ad esempio, è nata in un bidone della spazzatura e spesso la sua mamma non aveva abbastanza latte per lei e i suoi fratellini (anche se poi la fortuna gira, si sa!).
Vorrei esse
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children, young-adult
3.5 stars

Told in the perspective of two adopted cats, Soyabean and Tofu, this book is very easy to enjoy. It may be a bit weird that the animals can understand human language while us, humans, are left clueless when it comes to animals. But overall I think this book is very funny and easy to read. The relationship between Soyabean and Tofu resembles human relationship, specifically siblings. The older sibling is the one who likes to brag about how brave and experienced he is, while the younger s
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
A clever, witty look at group hysteria and governmental inepitude. Although set in Beijing, it speaks sharply to man's foibles no matter his nationality. I highly recommend it.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: quick-reads
Interesting perspective into contemporary Chinese culture through the perspective of Soyabean and Tofu.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Questo romanzo è il dolcissimo racconto delle avventure di due micetti, Soia e Tofu, viste dal loro punto di vista.
Già inizialmente ci troviamo di fronte a due realtà all'opposto nelle quali vivono i due gatti. Soia abita con la sua nai nai e mamma gatta, Tofu al contrario è una randagia e vive in un bidone della spazzatura insieme alla madre e i fratelli. Entrambi vengono adottati da Mr e Mrs A ed iniziano così a vivere una vita molto agiata essendo la famiglia ricca rispetto al resto della pop
Debora  Brouwer
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Met (helaas) wat negatieve reviews in mijn achterhoofd ben ik dit boek gaan lezen, maar na drie enigszins langdradige hoofdstukken had ik de slag helemaal te pakken. Dit boek, dat een mix is van de genres dieren- en cultuurverhalen, vertelt op een bijna verterende manier het leven met alle bijbehorende sores vanuit de ogen van de Chinese huiskatten Sojaboon en Tofu. Mooi aan dit boek vind ik dat de Chinese cultuurkenmerken op zo'n subtiele maar waardevolle wijze zijn verwerkt. Hoewel deze cultuu ...more
Eleonora Salviato
Carino, questo libro è stato un pò diverso dagli altri libri sui gatti, simpatico, è scritto dal punto di vista dei due mici a capitoli alterni, un capitolo Soia, un capitolo Tofu,ed è ambientato in Cina, un posto che non avevo ancora scoperto.
Abbastanza scorrevole, divertente, ma allo stesso tempo triste e spero non veritiero dato quello che succede poi, anche istruttivo ho imparato un pò di cinese ;) grazie al piccolo glossario alla fine.
Una bella autobiografia, simpatica, divertente e scorrev
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book!
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting story about Chinese politics and culture as they prepared for the Beijing Olympics from the point of view of two cats.
Geeky Bookers - Ilaria
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Questa storia racconta la storia di due gattini: il primo, Soia, nato da una famiglia "di razza" e ha un bel pelo fulvo, non gli manca il cibo, viene istruito dalla mamma sul quello che è il Mondo, ovvero il mondo degli umani e il suo sogno è quello di acchiappare una libellula. Tofu invece è una gattina nera, nata in un bidone da una famiglia di gatti randagi. I due gattini vengono adottati da due signori waiguo ren, ovvero stranieri e non cinesi. Soia viene ingaggiato per fare la pubblicità di ...more
Becky B
Tofu and Soybean are two kittens adopted by a foreign couple living in Beijing in a year leading up to the Olympics. (The building of the Stadium comes into the story.) The story follows Tofu and Soybean for the first year of their lives and through their eyes readers get a feel for what life is like in Beijing for average citizens, the plight of migrant workers, the panic that can spread because of a virus in such a crowded city, and the consequences of corruption.

This was a spur of the moment
Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this novel other that knowing it was narrated by (2) cats who live in Beijing. I was thought might be a pleasant change from all the stories I've read that were told from a dog's perspective.

The (2) cats are former strays who have lead very different lives prior to be adopted by a foreign couple who named them Soyabean and Tofu. Soyabean is a ginger-colored, handsome male -- picture future model for a pet food company. He grew up as a stray in a middle cla
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was one of a few books that I finished in one run.

I am a Chinese, with Mandarin as my mother-tongue and English as my second language. So, I tend to mix the two languages when I talked with family and friends.

When reading this story, I had not expecting romanized Chinese vocabularies to be thrown in, it made all the conversation so normal and natural to me. I really enjoyed it, but I do wonder would it affect other readers who didn't know how to pronounce and/or understand what they me
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
A light read set over a period including the SARS outbreak and the clash over development of Beijing in preparation for the Olympics and rights of the little people. All told from the perspective of two cats.
Sara Solerosso
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Venivo da alcune letture pesanti motivo per cui ho apprezzato tantissimo questa storia. A dire il vero mi aspettavo quasi un racconto per bambini, invece, oltre alla godibilissima trama, ci sono ottimi spunti per riflessioni di carattere sociale come la povertà, lo sfruttamento ed i pregiudizi che troppo spesso affliggono le nostre società. Ovviamente da amante di gatti non ho potuto che adorare Soia, ma soprattutto l'introspettiva Tofu. Ovviamente il bene trionfa sempre, ma senza cadere nel fin ...more
Victoria Law
If you're looking for a novel that gives details of life in Beijing's hutongs, this isn't for you. But if you're looking for a whimsical read that is set in the hutongs (and/or love books from cats' point of view), then you might enjoy it.

I was disappointed that there weren't more details of hutong life. But Aiyar does weave in some of the historical goings-on of 21st century Beijing--the hysteria around the SARS virus (I didn't know that some people blamed cats for it!), attitudes towards migr
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: chinese, cat
I picked this up from the library due to my interest in everything Chinese. This was a really strange read. The main "characters" are two cats that grow up in very different environments in China. You do get a sense of daily life in China, but this is a strange way to get that glimpse. The writing was ok. I wish she had defined some of the Chinese words earlier for the reader. For instance "Ren" means people and she never really defines the word. Strange is probably the best way to describe this ...more
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I had no idea that there were book written from a cat's perspective until my FIL came home one day and just handed me the book. He said "I read the description on the inside and I had to buy it." He said he was still in the middle of another book so I could go ahead and read it. Amazing! I loved it! I am a big cat person and I found it hilarious as well as touching. I teared up, I laughed, I got angry and I am recommending this book to all my cat-loving friends!
Kae Cheatham
Oct 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Very hard to choose stars for this. The view presented of Chinese society, the writing and character development were all good; but the characters were cats. I'm not fond of animal personification, and this book was no exception. Hence I think 2-stars but must credit the author for her writing expertise, which had me reading to the end, when I would have otherwise put the book down after the first few chapters. Cover art and illustrations are quite nice!
Apr 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
I like cats and I like books about other cultures, but this just didn't work for me. I can accept the telling of a story through the eyes of an animal, but these animals were a little TOO personified and it felt weird/creepy. I would definitely hand this book to a child in late elementary school/middle school because it is simple enough and it doesn't have any red flags, but I seriously can't imagine adults enjoying it.
Kari Ross
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a rather easy, light read. While there were definitely some heavier topics (SARS virus, the Olympic Games and use of low-wage labor, tainted pet food, racial privilege) and rather emotional points, the overall tone of the book was bright. The approach was rather creative, bringing a different perspective on the topics, however the author did anthropomorphize the animals almost to an extreme. Still highly enjoyable and a nice refreshing novel.
Feb 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I believe this should be juvenile fiction. 1) Viewing the world through the eyes of cats with human emotions and opinions is a little strange. 2) The human and animal rights dilemma in China has NOT improved since the building of the Olympic Village. Having a happy ending when there is no happy ending is a little tacky. I prefer historical fiction, or even fiction with a taste of history, to be generally accurate.
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A nice little book about two young cats living with an expat couple in China. Althought it didn't really look like a children's book on the cover, the language and the story line was really more for a younger audience. The cats were fun, both with very different personalities and yet also very cat-like. The overall defeating of the "bad guys" was a fun little scene.

Maybe more like 3.5 stars.
Mary Toelke
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Picked this up because of my interest in cats and China. It is a story narrated by two cats from different backgrounds. You do get a glimpse into the class system in China through their eyes and it was a pleasant enough read. However, I would have to agree with other reviewers that it is more suited to a younger audience--middle school, perhaps. It was worth my time, though.
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I've never been an animal lover, much the less one of those people who suspends her disbelief so obligingly that she accepts that she's reading an interlocking series of short stories "written" by two inter-related Chinese hutong cats. And yet...I love the witty and clever way that these "cats" manage to reveal everyday aspects of Chinese society.
Una bella favola moderna con, sullo sfondo, la nuova e la vecchia Cina: gatti domestici e gatti randagi, umani benestanti e lavoratori trattati come animali, stranieri che cominciano ad inserirsi nella quotidianità cinese e nuovi ricchi, arrivisti e senza scrupoli.
Viene mobilitato persino il primo ministro, ma solo dopo che un gatto sovrappeso ha scatenato una mezza rivoluzione.
May 22, 2013 rated it liked it
This simply told story is either charming or annoying, depending on whether the reader likes stories told from the point of view of young cats, and punctuation and word usage that is not quite correct English. I find the punctuation and usage annoying, but enjoy the cats.

The plot is somewhat predictable, but this is a nice little book for cat lovers.
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, foreign
Something was missing from this story. I love cats. I love learning about other cultures. But..I can't put my finger on it. It was sweet, I did pick up some interesting tidbits about China during the time of the SARS scare. It could be shortened and made a kids' story maybe. I can see it as a picture book.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Instead of a dog narrator - we have 2 cats from China during the animal-virus scare(s) epidemics. Soyabean and Tofu from totally different backgrounds end up exposing fraudulent cat food con-men who are more interested in profit than the ill-effects of their poisonous cat food. I look at my cats totally different now.
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