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The Boat Rocker

3.12  ·  Rating details ·  944 ratings  ·  193 reviews
From the award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: an urgent, timely novel that follows an aspiring author, an outrageous book idea, and a lone journalist's dogged quest for truth in the Internet age.

New York, 2005. Chinese expatriate Feng Danlin is a fiercely principled reporter at a small news agency that produces a website read by the Chinese diaspora around the w
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Pantheon Books
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Average rating 3.12  · 
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 ·  944 ratings  ·  193 reviews

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Ron Charles
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Americans already held little respect for journalists before this presidential campaign dragged their faith to all-time lows. But for all our grousing about bias, corporate concentration and the eye-crossing inanity of what passes for news, the First Amendment still allows us to express ourselves with a presumption of freedom unimaginable to many people around the world. The question of how that precious liberty should be exercised has never seemed more pertinent.

How timely, then, to read this s
Feb 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
I hated every page of this book.

I started hopefully, because I was intrigued by Waiting and have been wanting to read Ha Jin’s other books for a long time. But my hackles went up on the first page—in the second paragraph—and I only got more and more suspicious until finally it was confirmed. I finished the book, because when I hate something like this I need to know that nothing changes toward the end that might have influenced my opinion. It didn’t.

There are minor issues with the book, like the
Bonnie Walker

Ha Jin is the author of two of my favorite books: Waiting and War Trash. I've read most of his other work and was excited to see he had written a new novel. The writing in A Boat Rocker is as good as ever and so the book is pleasant reading. What I could not get past was the plot which I can only describe as ludicrous. This book would have been good, even great, had the conflict been about something that made sense. The Chinese journalist who is the protagonist is assigned a story t
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Feng Danlin is an expatriate Chinese living in New York. He's recently received his new American passport. He has an American girlfriend, and he's absolutely, completely Chinese at heart. There's no way he can let go of the things that irk him about China: its government, its culture of corruption, its unpredictability, its disregard for the individual, or what he misses about home: its wonderful food, its provinces, its people...they all haunt him.

When his former wife writes a terrible novel th
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ha-jin
Feng Danlin, the protagonist of “The Boat Rocker” is not only an extremely unreliable narrator but is portrayed as a self-righteous prig with an outsize sense of himself. He thinks he is (and doesn’t hesitate to tell others) a truthful journalist in the midst of a universe of scoundrels and liars. He is a person we may have met, read an article by or heard on the media—the only one who knows what is going on the world, who has the “real” story. At the same time he is an admirable character, one ...more
Moshe Mikanovsky
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book
Not much is tied up at the end of the story, which is quiet frustrating. This book is not so much about the fight that they narrator goes through to expose the truth but more about how China fails its citizens and other political inclinations of the author.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
The Boat Rocker, Ha Jin, author; Edoardo Ballerini, narrator
Feng Danlin and Yan Haili, were married in China. He was an unsophisticated, aspiring author, and she turned out to be a scheming young woman who also imagined herself as a writer, He loved her and believed her love for him was sincere. Since both partners in a marriage were not allowed to leave China together, she left for America first. After a couple of years, he insisted she bring him over. In China, his superior at work was inferio
Lily MacKenzie
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Boat Rocker Rocks!

As a writer, it’s impossible for me to read other authors’ works without examining how they create their best effects. For some time, I had wanted to read one of Ha Lin’s novels. I knew that English wasn't his native language, but he seems to have mastered it well enough to receive the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Native speakers would h
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This would have been better as a series of essays rather than a novel. Ha Jin has plenty of interesting things to say about the Chinese diaspora, the concept of a 'fatherland,' and the relationship between a country and its government. But here they are packaged in a weak novel populated by two-dimensional characters whose conversations serve only to express Ha Jin's thoughts on the subjects listed above. The pretense of a storyline and half-hearted character development were unnecessary. ...more
Abandoned. The plot is silly. Chinese reporter decides to do an expose of his ex-wife’s upcoming novel about which she has made patently false claims. The author uses this novel as a vehicle to explore media relations and censorship in China today. It’s an interesting topic but I’d rather read an article about it than wade through this ridiculous story.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book but it read like a bad translation although it was written in English. The plot seemed really unbelievable also. Why would anyone care about a badly written book about 9/11? I didn't get it. ...more
Jack Rochester
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First, I loved the title. It immediately captured my interest and reminded me of the song, "Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation. Second, I am a huge fan of Ha Jin's novels, especially "Waiting" a few years ago. I've read it twice for its penetrating, anguishing, view into the hearts and minds of two people who, separated by circumstances both of their own making as well as beyond their control, cannot be together. Third, I’m a boat rocker too.

The author has written in a very different setting
Aug 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I was initially drawn to "The Boat Rocker" because it involved the world of publishing (and honest reporting - an idea in and of itself that sounded intriguing) and from the summary sounded full of fun and humor.

While I didn't find much out-loud humor, the tone of "The Boat Rocker" is definitely light, poking fun in several places and drawing a smile here and there. But although there is some fun, this is not a fluffy read - it's thoughtful and makes a person think. I enjoyed Chinese expatriate
Thurston Hunger
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huh. Took a chance on this and it was pretty good. But be warned, it's more of a character-driven story than a plot-driven one and very little happens but the writing is excellent.

Ha Jin has the mundanely magical introspection of Haruki Murakami and Jay McInerney's city-centric insight. The narrator is a journalist who is assigned to investigate a novel written by his estranged ex-wife. He lets his resentment towards her run rampant as he looks into whether or not the book is a dud like he suspe
Celia Crotteau
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a novel intended for thoughtful consideration, not mindless entertainment. A young Chinese journalist in exile who prides himself on his uncompromising exposes finds that, in this global world, the claws of his birth country's communist government can extend as far as New York and influence, perhaps ruin, his life. While protected physically as a new American citizen, he must grapple emotionally with his ties to a culture and its traditions versus the current power controlling that ancie ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Born and educated in China, Ha Jin completed post graduate studies in the US and has made a career of writing about China in English. I read his A Map of Betrayal a while ago, and came to the conclusion that the plentiful awards this writer has won, are more in sympathy with his relentlessly anti-Chinese position than for his skill in writing. I found aspects of A Map of Betrayal unconvincing, and The Boat Rocker similarly flawed.

The occasional awkwardness of Ha Jin’s writing is signalled by th
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
The central plot structure involves a journalist being assigned to report on / demolish the reputation of his ex-wife. Somehow that basic conflict of interest is never called into question, and so throughout the book I struggled to find sympathy for the narrator, who feels victimized first by his ex and later by the Chinese state through his ex. I also didn't find the writing style to my liking, and all too often the opinions of the narrator seemed a thinly veiled opportunity to comment on Chine ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
This author won the National Book Award for his novel "Waiting" and perhaps I should have read that one first. I found this one boring and couldn't finish it. The writing seemed, not stilted, but like a bad translation. I didn't care for any of the characters, least of all the hero who is described as "a fiercely principled reporter" with a " dogged quest for truth". But I saw him as a petty man pursuing a vendetta against his ex-wife. She was a real creep too and deserved whatever she got. It's ...more
Amanda Zucoloto
This book was somewhat interesting in regards to Chinese culture and Chinese immigration to a Western country. Nonetheless, the characters were so unlikeable, unreliable and dull. It was such a flat read, I was tremendously unimpressed. On a happier note though I might give Ha Jin a second chance.
Mar 02, 2017 marked it as i-gave-up
This book just didn't work for me right now. I've moved on. ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I really disliked the authors writing style - it felt very amateurish to me. The saving grace was some thought provoking philosophical topics about values and identity.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Interesting, a scorching political diatribe, but anticlimactic and, in the end, a bit underwhelming.
Marc Faoite
Dec 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
I wasted my time reading this book so that you don't have to.

Ha Jin was born in 1956 in China, lived through Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward”, spent his teenage years in the People’s Liberation Army, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Studies and a Master’s degree in Anglo-American Literature.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China happened while he was on scholarship at Brandeis University in the United States and led to his decision to make America his home. Despite being openly cr
Mar 06, 2017 added it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Set in New York City just four years following 9/11, The Boat Rocker delineates Chinese journalist Feng Danlin’s exhaustive attempts to uncover and reveal to the public the relationship between his ex-wife’s romance novel and the Chinese government. Taking notice of Danlin’s writings, prominent Chinese figures step in to meddle with his career and his relationships. Things spiral out of control from there.

Frankly, I hated this book for a multitude of reasons. However, I’ll discuss the (scant) po
Mar 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
OMG. Where should I start. There are so many issues with this book... I can't even imagine to list them all. The whole premise is fake - the book has almost nothing to do with 'integrity'. Then the soap box aspect. Those soap box spiels are on the level a (not too intelligent) high schooler whose only resource to write their obligatory essay is Wikipedia. Then the main protagonist - the journalist who is supposedly fighting for 'integrity'; he is vindictive, he is ignorant, he is a prick (and al ...more
Maya Lang
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
On one hand, this is a timely novel about the role of journalists and the free press: truth speaking to power, a poor underdog with few resources going up against he government and its elaborate workings; how much governments and despots rely on the media and care about their own image. All of this resonates in 2017.

However, the ideas behind this novel are better than their execution. A book's timeliness shouldn't be the best thing about it. It's hard to believe this is the same author who wrot
Karen GoatKeeper
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Feng Danlin is a Chinese journalist working for a Chinese online newspaper in New York with a large Chinese and growing American audience and is a brand new U.S. citizen. He writes an investigative column.
Haili Yan is Feng's ex-wife and an aspiring novelist being touted by the Chinese as the author of a best selling, wonderful novel. There will be a movie version.
Feng has both personal and professional reasons for exposing the new novel as a fake propped up by lies. The famous Chinese editor bac
Larry Peninger
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
When I first started the book I was expecting something more akin to a political tour de force. What I got was a broken man working at a two bit news outlet, that hates his wife , hates his country, and would rather they never existed.
I feel bad for the for having a bitch of a wife. But to carry all that does nothing except ruin your next relationship. Which it does in the end. Danlin has issues with racial acceptance and tolerance.
He really was not much of a boat rocker.mi think that is the t
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Ha Jin is the pen name of Jin Xuefei, a novelist, poet, short story writer, and Professor of English at Boston University.Ha Jin writes in English about China, a political decision post-Tiananmen Square.

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