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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,233 ratings  ·  397 reviews
Mo Yan chronicles the sweeping history of modern China through the lens of the nation’s controversial one-child policy.

Frog opens with a playwright nicknamed Tadpole who plans to write about his aunt. In her youth, Gugu—the beautiful daughter of a famous doctor and staunch Communist—is revered for her skill as a midwife. But when her lover defects, Gugu’s own loyalty to th
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 22nd 2015 by Viking (first published 2009)
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In late 1965, the population explosion was a source of considerable pressure on the leadership. As the first family- planning policy in New China peaked, the government proposed: One is good, two is just right, three is too many.

Set in Gaomi Township (Yan's birthplace used figuratively in his novels as China coursing through history ), Frog centers on the life story of Gugu, a rural midwife whose modern medical skills surpassed traditional childbirth practices of the countryside, who gained
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wa wa wa -- the frogs croak.

Wah wah wah -- the babies cry.

Tadpole is the narrator. He is writing a letter, which does not seem like a letter, to his Japanese mentor. He writes about his aunt, Gugu, who is revered as a midwife. She is old now. Look around though. You and you and you. It is likely you are one of the ten thousand that Gugu delivered. Head first or feet first. Perhaps you reached your hand out instead. Gugu may have humored your parents and cooked up a potion to make sure you were a
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, borrow, netgalley

What the heck did I just read? I was really enjoying this until the last fifteen percent, then it just got weird. I mean this book is already a little odd, a little bit of an acquired taste but that ending took it to a whole 'notha level. The dialogue in this book is formal and dramatic which strained the “believability” for me a bit, however considering that I have no real knowledge of this culture, especially during that time period that it takes place in, I choose to accept the way of speakin
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
This must be one of the first Chinese novels I put my teeth into. So it takes some getting used to the style and atmosphere. But it soon became clear that Mo Yan is a natural storyteller who isn’t afraid of spending a page more to bring his story, or better, his stories. The common thread is the one-child policy that the Chinese Communist Party introduced in the second half of the 1960s to curb the population explosion. By means of concrete characters Yan makes clear to which human dramas this l ...more
First, I owe a debt of gratitude to the GoodReads FirstReads program and to the publisher, who kindly provided an advance copy of Frog for early review. I was eager to read a novel by Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize last year. This one, published in 2009, is not new, but is finally being published in the U.S.

Frog spotlights a particularly egregious Chinese policy: the controversial and restrictive one-child policy imposed by the Mao regime. Although the scourge of overpopulation was indeed a ma
Diane S ☔
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
2.5 Tadpole is our narrator, an aspiring playwright, he is telling the story of his Aunt Gugu. Although she started out as a midwife, she is soon trying to prove her loyalty to the party by strictly enforcing Mao's one child policy. This becomes necessary when her loyalty is questioned and she is arrested after her fiancé, a pilot, defected.

Individual responses to the changes in China under Mao, the famine and the one child policy are both horrific to experience. Late term abortions, planting of
Aug 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Quite interesting and usually an enjoyable read which focuses on China's one child policy. Would have enjoyed it more, but never really felt any connection to any of the characters. Also, the plot was a bit confusing, mainly because there wasn't really a straight timeline. ...more
Jan 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Talk about disappointing. Two years ago, when Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for literature for Frog, Westerners and Chinese were shocked and elated. The Chinese were ecstatic that a Chinese writer won the honor at all (he’s the only Chinese writer who lives in China to have ever won the prize) and Westerners were amazed that the book was “about the one-child policy and forced abortions.” Unfortunately for people who can’t read Chinese, that description was a bit of a misnomer. After waiting two yea ...more
An interesting story about family planning (i.e. child birth control) in rural China, starting from the early sixties until a few years after 2000.

The book is presented as a series of letters written by Tadpole, a retired military officer, and rising play writer. The letters are to his teacher who he refers to as Sensei. The letters are focused on the life of his aunt Gugu, who started as a talented young doctor/midwife but became the main enforcer of the "one child policy" in the district. As
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This novel, like many others by Mo Yan, is set in the eastern Chinese countryside; this one also has the mocking and earthy tone as the others though it grapples with one of the most striking - and in some corners, one of the most hated of the CCP's policies: mandated population planning.

The fact that this was published at all shows how much attitudes have shifted, or indeed how much the CCP's policy has changed. Instead of a one-child policy, as it has promoted from the late 1970s to the mid-2
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I grew up under the “One-Child Policy”. My parents were luckier because the place they were in allowed each Han Chinese family to have two kids. None of my other relatives, close or remote, had any drama due to having a second child.

So, before reading this book, I never gave it a second thought what the policy really means. It means some policy implementers, like Gu-Gu in the novel, ruthlessly “killed” many unborn, even big-monthed, babies; it means that some moms faced great danger or even die
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of the playwright Tadpole and his great aunt Gugu, a gifted midwife who is charged with the task of enforcing the one-child policy of Communist China in her local community, a task which she takes on with a vengeance. As with other books I have read about China, this book presents a discomforting yet fascinating portrait of an oppressive government whose policies have mandated involuntary abortions and forced sterilizations, and of those who become indoctrinated by that ...more
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2014, giveaways, china
I received Frog as a Goodreads Giveaway.

The topics covered in the novel are intriguing and after a chaotic start, Frog hit its stride briefly with the set up of the narrator’s aunt’s fiancé defecting from China and her disastrous attempt to prove her loyalty to the Party by enforcing China’s one child policy. We’re introduced to themes like mandatory vasectomies and IUD placements, underground surrogates, forced late term abortions and the society’s overwhelming preference for male babies. Howev
Sep 02, 2020 marked it as never-ever-to-read-ever
The Chinese have a common blessing: 百子千孙 (wan zi qian shun). It translates to, "May you have a hundred sons and a thousand grandsons". We didn't mean this metaphorically. My grandfather had 11 children and no way to feed them so he killed himself. That is of course the much better way to deal with things instead of that One Child Policy. Silly CCCP.

This is China's population growth with a One Child Policy (taken from Columbia University):

Notice that the Great Leap Forward does not even regist
Valentina Vekovishcheva
When a very authentic-looking account of the "one child policy" times in China suddenly changes into a play echoing the plot of "Little Fires Everywhere", it might seem confusing. But it so isn't! Really powerful and touching ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A powerful and interesting book, also my first Mo Yan book. 4.4 stars, almost 5. Cannot wait to read Red Shorghum.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Frog is the latest novel from contemporary Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.

The novel is presented in five parts, with each prefaced by a letter from our narrator, Wan Zu/Xiaopao/Tadpole, an aspiring playright, to his Japanese mentor. Set in a rural community in the Shangdong province of China, the events he relates spans several decades from 1960 to around 2000.

Frog deals largely with the controversial themes of China's one child policy with Tadpole writ
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of this book for free through First Reads on Goodreads.

It is easy to see the influence of Latin American writers on the author. At times Frog feels almost like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel transported to a different place and time. The novel is primarily framed as an epistolary account of the lives of Tadpole (our narrator) and his aunt Gugu. Tadpole is born as things are changing in his village. The major reform the novel is concerned with is China's infamous one child poli
I'm officially calling it quits with this one. I've been piking it up and putting it back down for over four months now. I think it's just a case of the author's writing style not fitting with my taste. The description grabbed my attention right away. I love historical fiction featuring strong woman who make it even when all the odds are staked against them. I knew we'd hear Gugu's story through her nephew, but I thought her story would be the bulk of the book. Up to 37% (where I'm DNFing), we d ...more
Azita Rassi
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
The subject is very serious, but the form is not my cup of tea. I’d have liked a much more in-depth exploration of people’s feelings and reactions to such a complicated issue. As it is, the book presents bold caricatures of its characters, with each of them only having one kind of attitude towards family planning at a certain time, either completely for or completely against. This can be of course the narrator’s perception. As the whole work is from his point of view, and he is not a very insigh ...more
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Part of the reason I chose to read this novel was because the outcry around Mo Yan winning the Nobel last year made me mad. It reminded me of what often happens to minority artists in this country: if they don't meet the majority's idea of how they ought to be they're pilloried.

In this case Yan was judged according to a single political standard: our own almost instinctual liberal (i.e., libertarian-tinged) values. That he had been slow to champion the cause of free speech for an imprisoned fel
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in China's one-child policy
Shelves: read-in-german
This is the second novel I read from Mo Yan. I absolutely loved The Republic of Wine (here's my review) and I admit I was hoping for something similar.

The novel is made out of five parts and the fifth one is actually a play. In this case, the novel truly focuses on China's one-child policy. The main character is a delivery nurse and we follow her as the reform takes place, which adds a whole new dimension to her profession: abortions. She does more than following the new laws, but truly and stro
Scott Cox
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ever wondered what it would be like to live under China’s dastardly one-child policy? “Frog” by Nobel laureate Mo Yan, exposes the gruesome policies which forbids a second child to most Chinese families. Draconian policies include forced late-term abortions and IUD implants. The sordid story details are seen through the eyes of a writer nicknamed Tadpole. “An old custom in my hometown dictated that a newborn child is given the name of a body part or organ . . . I was known as Wan Zu (foot) . . . ...more
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this one in the German edition which came out last year. It was a challenging read both since it lacked an ongoing thrill and the names were a bit confusing for me. However, it was also a very interesting read about China's history starting in times before the cultural revolution. The main focus of the book is the life of a midwife/gynecologist who helps to bring thousands of babies into the world, but also works along with the politics of the one-child rule and ends the lives of as many ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5. Easily a 5 for the subject matter, but a difficult laborious 'read' as rather disjointed and use of similar Chinese names made it tiring to try to keep the characters in order. May also have suffered in translation from Chinese. Parts of the book clearly merit a 5 rating.
Deals with the ramifications of the one-child policy in Communist China. Descriptions of old midwifery practices, then more modern midwifery humane practices based on science, and then transition to the 'one-child policy'
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Steven Moore reviews Frog in The Washington Post ::

This review garnered a politically correct spanking on a blog called national RIGHT TO LIFE NEWS TODAY ::

"Twisting 'art' to justify China’s brutally repressive One-Child Policy" By Dave Andrusko
"But to Moore, who we are told is a novelist, this amounts to a 'social experiment.' He trivializes the abuses in the first couple of paragraphs–..."

You decide.
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
this book is fantastic. review to come.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really like and respect Chinese culture. I live in China and enjoy the place. Yet, I know how inappropriate it sounds when I write that Chinese literature often seems like dystopian science fiction to me. Sure it's the issue of authoritarianism, but it's also the perspective towards that authoritarianism that renders the literary experience so unfamiliar to me. In this novel, activities revolve largely around the family planning arm of the government that enforced the one-child policy (and man ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved Frog. Taken at face value, it recounts a series of dramatic, folkloric incidents among larger-than-life village characters. But it's not meant to be taken at face value. If you can't enjoy a funny anecdote about starving children munching on coal, this book is not for you. If you want a story in which idealism vanquishes cynicism, maybe you shouldn't be reading about the last 60 years of Chinese population control policy.

All my knowledge of China comes from reading. Magical realist satir
Kelly Gunderman
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I had a difficult time with this book. I'm not really sure why, if it was the massive list of characters that often confused me (although I am thankful for the list in the beginning of the book), the writing (there were no quotation marks in this book. Anywhere. It was so hard to tell when someone stopped talking and the rest of the story continued).

Those issues aside, the book wasn't bad. I mean,
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Modern Chinese author, in the western world most known for his novel Red Sorghum (which was turned into a movie by the same title). Often described as the Chinese Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller.

Mo Yan (莫言) is a pen name and means don't speak. His real name is Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè).

He has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 for hi

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