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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  46 reviews
"The 40 years' affection and love of a woman is written painful and touching with a delicate and gorgeous pen, in which the ups and downs of the city of Shanghai from the 1940s to the 1990s are interweaved. Countless ideals, agitations and grudges sink here in the Nongtangs of Shanghai. Their pursuit of love and their success or failure is unfolded in front of us sequentia ...more
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published November 1st 2014 by 北京联合出版公司 (first published 1991)
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The passage of time associated with those old jazz records was indeed a good thing; it had smoothed things out until they were strong and fine, rubbing off the superficial layers to reveal the inner grain, like gold emerging when the fire has burned away the dross. But what he saw that day was not an object, like an old jazz record, but a person.
The closest author comparison I can make to this is that of Proust, but only while ignoring all the elitist claptrap that I myself once partook of in
Inderjit Sanghera
Sunlight and moonlight dominate the Shanghai in which ‘The Song of Everlasting Sorrow’ is set. Dappled sunlight, decorous beneath the dazzling Shanghai mornings, the dull, drudgery of pale, putrid the alleyways between the longtang apartments, the gentle fall of sunlight on a quiet afternoon, the evanescent moonlight, briefly illuminating the beauty of a woman whose life has been worn out beneath the weight of innumerable sorrows; moon-light and sun-light set the stage for the life of Wang Qiyao ...more
Stephen Durrant
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been looking for a modern Chinese novel that was not constructed around the political horrors China has passed through during the past one hundred years. Wang Anyi's beautifully textured novel fits the bill. One cannot quite say that it is apolitical, for the political context is always the white noise humming just outside the Shanghai apartments, restaurants, and shops where Wang Qiyao, whose life this novel traces, and her array of lovers, friends, and family mix and mingle over a perio ...more
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Wang Anyi opens with exquisite descriptions of Shanghai and its distinct and mysterious longtang - neighborhoods that are as much a character as Wang Qiyao, a former beauty queen whose life has gone sadly awry. Wang Oiyao, comes together with people, only to drive them away in the end, unaware of her impact on others as her country is on its people
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, translated
By the time Wang Anyi introduces her protagonist Wang Qiyao, she shares an intimate tour of the city, Shanghai. Wang Anyi takes time to tell her readers the long intricate alleys, the way gossip travels through crevices of shared walls, the beautiful view of the city through the eyes of its pigeons and the changing times when girls dream of beauty pageants and PhDs.

The protagonist and Shanghai are coming to terms with China's newfound modernity and the influence of the west on the country, on t
Think a Chinese Zola -- an epic novel of social change revolving around the life of a single woman, from her youth in the glittering heyday of Paris-of-the-East Shanghai, to the tumult of the Deng Xiaoping era. This alone should be a ringing enough endorsement.

Wang Anyi's relationship to the upheavals of 20th Century China is also fascinating, and often in a rather perverse way. While the great realists of the 19th Century whom Wang takes her cue from -- Zola, Balzac, Tolstoy -- were all able to
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Once more I've read a Chinese novel that I just couldn't get into. I SHOULD have been able to get into this novel because it talked about the struggles of a woman protagonist. But I just couldn't understand the character. I couldn't feel much empathy for her either. All of the time, I kept thinking, "Just what is going through her mind? Why did she do that? Why did she say that?" She seemed every bit as much a stranger to me at the end of the book as at the beginning.

And the end of the book ende
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016, chinese
It's not, unfortunately, as good as its reputation would lead one to believe.

The style can occasionally become wearisome, in particular in those purple passages where the author seems to be trying too hard to impress; I had always been brought up to believe that excessive use of 成语, especially run together one after another, is a sign of weak writing, rather than of cleverness.

This is no presumably not the fault of the author, but, like other writers publishing in China today, Wang conveys the
Some years ago there's a movie based on this novel, but I never am interested enough to watch it, and I don't think I'll be interested enough to read the book any time soon.
Charles Laughlin
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Splendid translation of a fine novel, way to go Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan!
“The longtang are the backdrop of this city. Streets and buildings emerge around them in a series of dots and lines, like the subtle brushstrokes that bring life to the empty expanses of white paper in a traditional Chinese landscape painting. As day turns into night and the city lights up, these dots and lines begin to glimmer. However, underneath the glitter lies an immense blanket of darkness – these are the longtang of Shanghai.”

Wang’s writing style takes a while to get into. The Song of Eve
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Odio la nostalgia, pero agradezco encontrar una novela que repase la historia contemporánea de China desde una experiencia femenina, gastronómica, textil, arquitectónica, sensorial... y menos desde la genial pero ya manida parodia política de un Mo Yan o un Yu Hua.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Unbearable. Trying to read this is torture.
Jiahui Huang
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wenna Chen
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wintersweet Cui
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty women can't have happy ending easily.
Chenye G
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
A sad story..
Jaimie Lau
Where the book falls down is its inability to engage the reader and make them willing to invest into the characters themselves. Wang Qiyao, the focus of the novel, is truly awful. What is worse is the fact that the author seems to be out-of-touch with how the character comes across to the reader and does not feel the need to justify or apologise for Wang Qiyao's abhorrent attitude to her so-called friends and suitors, nor her seemingly never-ending belief that the world revolves around her. With ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like how she depicts a real Shanghai with an elegant and poetic touch. I love Wang Qiyao, she's a Shanghai woman to the core. No one could bring out the true DNA of Shanghai without loving it from bottom of heart.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, favorites
This ranks up there as one of the best books I've ever read, I think. There were times that her repetition became a little overbearing, but what a ride. There is one phrase that, if not a subtle nod to Geoff Dyer's final pages of The Missing of the Somme, should be:

The light with which she is so familiar has shone for hundreds and thousands of years, and it will always be there.

& Dyer:

Perhaps that is what is meant by ‘lonelyness’ — knowing that even at your moments of most exalted emotion,
Jenny Taylor
Jan 28, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like other readers, I found the book difficult to truly enjoy. The first few chapters drag on in flowery prose that make the reader wonder whether there is actually a plot to this novel. When we (finally) are introduced to the main character, there is nothing compelling us to have strong feelings about her (either positive or negative). In fact, none of the characters were well developed. As for the plot, there is no defined beginning, middle, and end. The book reads more like a chronicle of Wan ...more
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wang Anyi is apparently one of the more critically acclaimed authors in the Chinese-speaking-world. The novel traces the fortunes and tragedies of Wang Qiyao, who wins second prize in a late 1940s Shanghai beauty pageant, becomes the mistress of an army colonel, and after his death lives a greatly diminished life in Shanghai, always on the edge of history but unbound by its strictures she lives for fashion and the pleasures of her past. The buildup to the inevitably tragic conclusion (the novel' ...more
Miz Kizzy
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked it up and put it down again so many times in the first week, I thought I'd never grasp it. The prose, at first, is gravid with descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and moods of light, I rolled my eyes to Cleveland and back, but kept the book by the door as my smoke break read.

Now that I actually *care* about moods of light, the pages skip from 218 to 283! WTH?

***MUCH later, it's a very good novel, though you may be temped to speed read parts, go ahead, but it's worth the pay
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The city of Shanghai, its intricacies and nuances, adaptations and survival, mirrored the shifting responses of the female protagonist to chinese history. A haunting story, lives fluttering brightly then struggling. The narrator's voice remains detached throughout, an almost clinical recounting of people and swirling events, choices made in innocence or haste that push the characters into narrowing futures.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This entire book should be shredded. I hated every page. I wanted to like it because it's set in an interesting time and place (hence the extra star), but that is not a shortcut to actually good writing. The characters aren't fleshed out, the plot is meandering and there is so much "telling" instead of "showing." It can't just be a bad translation; this is a bad bad book. It is so unnecessarily long and miserable; I've never read a book with a more apt title. GAH!
This book received rave reviews, but I thought it was rather long. The author's writing style is not terse by any standard, though it may have suffered during the translation. The subtitle is apt. I think it should be read as the story of Shanghai rather than that of the main character. I would hesitate before giving a general recommendation to read it.
Aug 25, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This had a starred review in Publishers' Weekly, and although I only made it about 100 pages in I just couldn't take it any more. I was very disappointed in this book. The prose style of the first chapter nearly did me in but I kept on plugging through. I could find no reason to sympathize with these characters. Yuck.
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written novel in which the neighborhoods of Shanghai are as much characters as the people who inhabit them. This is an elegant book meant to be read slowly and savored. Although Wang Qiyao's story spans four decades (1940s - 80s), the history of China remains in the background. It is Wang Qiyao's inability to maintain human relationships that creates her sorrow.
Jun 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked Song in large part because it evoked a time and place with for which I had very little reference and taught me about it. IT did so through the eyes of a sympathetic character who brings you into her world and you live her life with her through the ups and downs and the choices she makes.
Mar 02, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Translated from Chinese into English by my Auntie Susan.

New York Times Book Review: "The novel is particularly illuminating and incisive on the subject of female friendship, on what draws girls and women together and then drives them apart. "
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Wang Anyi (王安忆, born in Tong'an in 1954) is a Chinese writer, and currently the chairwoman of Writers' Association of Shanghai. The daughter of a famous writer and member of the Communist Party, Ru Zhijuan(茹志鹃), and a father who was denounced as a Rightist when she was three years old, Wang Anyi writes that she "was born and raised in a thoroughfare, Huaihai Road." As a result of the Cultural Revo ...more
“But do not look down on even the most minute of things; for with the coming of daybreak, even the tiniest particles of dust in this world sing and dance in the sunlight.” 4 likes
“Being extra nice to someone can be a form of manipulation--kindness is an exercise of power in its own right.” 1 likes
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