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Young Babylon

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Knowing nothing more than the working-class life he is born into, headstrong Lu Xiaolu reluctantly starts down the path he is expected to follow. At age nineteen in 1990s China, he feels pressure to follow suit with those around him and takes a job at the town’s saccharin factory. Slowly, he adjusts to the bureaucratic factory routine, making the best of the situation by ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Amazon Crossing (first published July 1st 2014)
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Ling Wan Babylon is the point of all these pursuing. LU gave us the answer in his second book named "The journey to follow her". That's all the point. "I" was…moreBabylon is the point of all these pursuing. LU gave us the answer in his second book named "The journey to follow her". That's all the point. "I" was weak at my teen age and "i" wrote about it when i'm in my middle age. Of course "i" never reached the "Babylon", not even now. BUT maybe "i" was there, "i" was young.(less)

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Nancy Brisson
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Take a trip to modern China with Lu Xiaolu. It won’t be a fancy trip. This young “outlaw” is only nineteen and he is quite poor. He grew up in New Chemical Village near the chemical factory where his father worked. He did not push himself in high school, even though he would have chosen to be a shop assistant over a factory worker, probably because he did not have a studious or obedient disposition. His parents prepared him for his most probable destiny which would be a positon at the chemical ...more
Beth Robinson
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
The main character and narrator, which may or may not be semi-autobiographical, is an unusual character for me, a blue-collar young (18-20) slacker who doesn't really care, is often crude and occasionally obscene, and yet reads literature and writes poetry to impress girls, at least at first. This is a really slow coming of age story. During most of it the only sign you have that anything is going to happen at all is occasional references to how the narrator is now thirty and works at an office ...more
Gail Moreland
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Young Babylon

I chose a five star rating because it was a 5-star book to me. I don't have the means to travel. And I try to read books about fat-away places of any time period. And prefer authors of these books to be from the same country.

Young Babylon is a title I am still trying to figure out. Wealthy people at not in this book. The characters are factory.workers in the saccharin factory or the formaldehyde factory

Most of the characters are young and not much different than young Americans. For
Liam Dodd
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
An odd little book. Somewhat lacking a real narrative, it instead covers the musings and reflections of a factory worker in 1990's China, during the industrialisation of the area. As an insight into how the Chinese actually act, it is a fascinating window into the standard teenage rebellion, dissatisfaction with where your life is heading, and the bonds of friends and lovers that you would expect to find in any contemporary Western novel. For access to a certain view of life in China this book ...more
Felicity Gibson
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Young Babylon
Lu Nei
Read 9th July 2015
The whole setting is China in the 1990’s. Lu Xiaolu gets a job at a saccharin factory and the whole day to day routines in the factory are described in fascinating detail. He adjusts to the environment and makes the best of a bad situation by being headstrong and slightly out of step. As the story develops a picture of the Chinese system, as one of ignoring individual happiness, comes into view. He starts a relationship and it was interesting to get details
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
As others have noted, this book does not have much of a plot arc -- but that is the point. Neither does life. Small things are big in an individual life. Big things happen, and then life goes on again in its dailiness. In this book, life happens in 1990s China in a factory. I enjoyed this book. It is unsentimental, and the translator did a good job of explaining language jokes and allusions gracefully.
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Once I got used to the depressive atmosphere in this book I really enjoyed the insights into the minds of factory workers and cadres during the 90ies in China. After having finished the book I actually appreciated the story more than during reading. Hope that makes sense.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very funny realistic fiction. Fun world to get wrapped up in for a while.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Young Babylon by Lu Nei is a satirical literary humor set in the nineties in China. It is the story of a young and headstrong Lu Xiaolu who at the age of nineteen feels the strong need to find a work, and thus begins his daily routine at a saccharin factory, which the author described in fascinating details. Insightful and delightfully funny, the book offers a close look at the socio-cultural life of the Chinese.

Through his portrayal of Lu Xiaolu, author Lu Nei crafted a pen picture of China
Beck Frost
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I laughed a lot. This is not a flowery account by any means, and the main character is just as hard on himself as those around him. He proves many times that he has no clue, no direction and can be all around useless to make a life changing decision. He needs strong hints and sometimes a smack to get anything done about improving himself. But, this account seems honest and full of raw emotions. And just for my future reference...I kinda imagined the main character looking like the actor Liu Ye ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Read in translation. This book was really slow going. The narrator is a young Chinese man in his 30s reflecting back on his late teens/early twenties. He did not earn a spot in a secondary school; thus, he had to work in a saccharine factory. Most of the story centers on his time in the factory and the various co-workers and shenanigans of said factory.
Jan 10, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I didn't finish this, in fact just barely started, the writing didn't do it for me.
Carla Krueger
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of the difference between dreams and reality - and the occasional moments when they become the same thing. It all takes place in and around the microcosm of a factory in nineties China. What makes the book so memorable are the characters, the endless astute observations, clever metaphors and subtle life lessons. It also describes a completely different culture and environment and that's what makes it fascinating.

Anybody who criticises Young Babylon for lack of laughs
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The rise of China from empire brought to poverty by the terrible authoritarian-collectivist ideas of the 20th century to a rapidly growing, urbanizing, mattering country is one of the most important developments of the present day and recent past, and yet I find it strangely underrepresented in popular culture. Beyond sweatshop jokes and stump speeches, the American psyche doesn't engage much with Chinese manufacturing, which to date has probably pulled tens of millions out of desperate poverty. ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I hope this was a free read from Amazon. Maybe there was something lost in translation, because I really didn't enjoy this book. Neither the story nor the characters were interesting. I only made it to the end because I don't like to leave a book unfinished. I will say I learned a little bit about what living in China was like twenty or so years ago. But I was hoping for more.
Ian Russell
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was in the mood for some international literature when Young Babylon came by way of promotional email, and I can't remember reading any contemporary Chinese authors before. It reminded me of those British working class novels, invariably set in the industrial north of England, set after the war but before the so-called Summer of Love. Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, that kind of thing. Though, for China, it all happened in the 90s. And at other times I was reminded of a Nick Hornby novel, ...more
Kelsi H
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Please read more of my reviews at!

In 1990s China, Lu Xiaolu is growing up in a town full of factories, where his only dream in life is to work at one of them. With few expectations comes little disappointment, and that’s what makes this depressing coming-of-age story so unique. Lu Xiaolu talks about having no future and no real opportunities, yet somehow he is fairly lighthearted about it – and as he works his way towards his goals, hope opens up in a dreary
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I really and truly enjoyed this book. Would give it a 4.5 if I could.
The 30some-year-old narrator, Lu Xiaolu, muses on his experiences as a young saccharin factory worker in the 1990s. The story oozes with satire, self-deprecating humor, and bittersweet nostalgia that Xiaolu sometimes tries/oftentimes doesn't try to conceal. The tone of the narration is best represented in a line said by Bai Lan, a girl he falls in love with at the factory who probably knew him better than he knew himself at the
Sonia Kantak
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Young Babylon was supposed to reflect a young character's development from China's working class life-a life that was somewhat thrust upon him-to a life he actually wanted to live. The premise was the typical from-rags-to-riches kind of story but one set in a country I don't have a lot of background knowledge on and therefore could have been really interesting. What this story turned into was the character's, or really the author's, juvenile obsession with "good-looking" women and sex. It was ...more
Amanda Boyd
Overall a good book, plot and characters a bit awkward at times

Although it was a very enjoyable read for me, it felt a little disjointed. The story is told by the main character as a 30-something year old looking back on his life when he was 18-20ish working in a saccharin factory. It's an interesting story and I liked that the descriptions were very in depth. You get to know all the different social "classes" within the factory and how everyone relates to one another. The main character is
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall a good book

There were things about this book that I loved and things about this book that I didn't like. The story is told as if you are remembering memories of a certain part of your life, in this case the young man beginnings as a worker in Communist China in a very poor city . Because it's told is memories, it seems disjointed in time as it jumps from one year now and then it'll jump back to a different year and then back to a former year which is a little bit confusing. However I
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book offers a slice of life viewpoint of living in rural China in the early 90s. Lu Xiaolu is a man who didn't really apply himself in school so he goes to work in the nearby saccharin factory. We get to hear his stories about the people he works with and his relationship with Bai Lan.

The narrative feels like if you're sitting there listening to someone tell stories about their life. Each chapter felt like it was another evening of stories from Lu Xiaolu. It's not in the perfect order and
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book leaves a bizarre aftertaste.

The story takes you back in time to a developing China during the industrial revolution. With a narrative filled with nostalgia, the author painted a detailed picture about the lives of people growing up in the industrial villages. Lost, uneducated, and underpaid. Our character went about with his "journey of discovery" and watched as people around him struggling to make sense of life and humility, where moral values are often lost in grays.

It is a very
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Young Babylon was Lu Nei’s first novel, first published in 2007 and now expertly translated into English. It’s the story of 19 year old Lu Xiaolu who works on the factory shop floor but has ambitions to become a cadre – so that he can sit in an office and drink tea all day. It’s a funny and satirical account of Chinese factory life in the 1990s and a fascinating insight into what that life was like for ordinary workers. It seems at first that Lu Xiaolu is destined to stay a factory worker all ...more
Alana Brown
I received this book free through kindle first. These tend to be hit or miss and Young Babylon was a hit! It's a semiautobiographical novel about a young working class man in china in the 1990s. This first person narrative is him recounting stories to his wife about his life in his twenties working in a saccharin factory. The descriptions were vivid and I felt like this story could have taken place in 1940s America based on the conditions elicited by the author. Very illuminating about life in ...more
Ling Wan
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read some references on the book. I dont want to be rude but there're some tips for foreigner readers: the story happened in China of 90s but what you see in the book is not the "China of 90s" nor "the China today". Though it's real somehow. All we know is that one book couldnt tell us much about a country or a life, or something like that.
Personal opinions: LuNei is my favourite 70-s writer. Read him when i was in high school. This is his very first book. The first one that i read called "the
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Young Babylon" written by Lu Nei, and translated by Poppy Toland, is a story about a young Asian man working in a saccharin factory in Daicheng, China in the early 1990's.

This story was fascinating to me as I was learning about a culture and lifestyle totally foreign to me. Nothing is similar to my own culture or upbringing. The book was well written and translated allowing me to get inside the main character's head; not only able to feel his anger, but his sadness, and grief as well.

I won a
Teresa Wright
Cultural shock

Wasn't sure what I was expecting when I started reading, but this book felt like it took forever to finish. It felt Luke s bunch of similarly related stories were thrown together randomly. I know it was a reflection of the narrator's past, but for what purpose? Maybe I missed the point of it, but it was an interesting view of Chinese life. Maybe I missed something significant.
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daren Eiri
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Made available from Amazon's Kindle First picks, this seemed the most interesting from the other 5 options available. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could. I found its humor a bit more vulgar that what I would appreciate, but I did find myself enjoying some of Nei's characters in this coming-of-age novel.
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Announcing himself as "one of the least-educated young writers in China," Lu Nei seems to have profited rather than lost by a life that began in struggle. Since the age of 19 he held a series of menial jobs around China—drifting, exploring, fighting, and observing. His interest in
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“That’s just the way it is sometimes: real time and time as you experience it seem like they’re happening in two different latitudes.” 1 likes
“Ah Fang was the third. She was dangling from the sixty-five-foot mark, displaying the power of love. For buns, you’d climb to thirty feet. For love, you would climb to sixty-five. But if you climbed to a hundred feet, to the top, it was for no reason other than wanting to die. This showed that love ranked higher than hunger, but not as high as death.” 1 likes
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