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Happy Dreams

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,491 ratings  ·  178 reviews
From one of China’s foremost authors, Jia Pingwa’s Happy Dreams is a powerful depiction of life in industrializing contemporary China, in all its humor and pathos, as seen through the eyes of Happy Liu, a charming and clever rural laborer who leaves his home for the gritty, harsh streets of Xi’an in search of better life.

After a disastrous end to a relationship, Hawa “Happ
Kindle Edition, 494 pages
Published October 1st 2017 by AmazonCrossing (first published September 2007)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,491 ratings  ·  178 reviews

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Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful story.

So very glad I picked this book, learned how millions of people in small villages of China lived. Author also comes from little village, met the real Happy character, with his help talked to trash pickers. Story is somewhat fictionalized story of these characters. Imaginative, humorous but some parts was hard to read. Hardship and obstacles they faced in their daily lives, brought tears to my eyes. Not only men from small villages but young girls with hope and dreams came to big
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. It was a Kindle First Book this month and I'm glad I chose it.

This is the story of Happy Liu, a trash picker in Xian, China. But he's really from the countryside. He has migrated to the city, determined to make something of himself. He brings along his friend, Wufu, also from the same village, Freshwind.

What you learn right away is that Happy is a decent, kind, upright human being. Wufu, who's not too bright and definitely not worldly, depends on him entirely. But Wufu is als
Julie Tridle
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminded me a little of a Dickens novel, but one where everything is a little less dire and the characters are more content, and I enjoyed it. The main complaint reviewers seem to have is that it has little to no forward momentum, and that is definitely true. For the most part, it’s about the main character, Happy Liu’s, thoughts on his day to day life spent with his friend Wufu as a migrant trash picker in Xi’an China. The book blurb makes it sound like Happy Liu’s search for the man ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
This book goes nowhere fast. I could live without a plot if each chapter had some entertaining elements, but no luck. After getting 15% of the way through, I realized I was dreading picking it up again. So I didn't. ...more
Sep 02, 2017 marked it as baleeted-for-opportunity-cost  ·  review of another edition
PW Starred: Pingwa (I Am a Farmer), winner of the 2009 Mao Dun Literature Prize, again explores China’s rapid industrialization, the prospects of rural workers, and the consequences of deepening class inequality in this optimistic yet heartbreaking tale of the life of Hawa “Happy” Liu. The novel follows Happy as he moves from his hometown of Freshwind to the bustling city of Xi’an to find both the man to whom he donated a kidney and the better life he believes he deserves. Along with best friend ...more
Kristi Duarte
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Four and a half stars! Although I usually only give five stars to books I'm totally blown away by, I liked this book A LOT! I've been to Xi'an, and although I don't remember any garbage pickers and didn't go to the poor suburbs where Happy Liu and Wufu live in Happy Dreams, rural/small town China is EXACTLY like that. People spit, they clear their phlegm, and the public toilets are often just a hole in the ground.

The voice of Happy Liu is awesome. Just read the first page and you'll see what I
Leslie P.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book while traveling in China, so was both happy and saddened to see actual trash pickers on the street, reminding me of the tough life of protagonist Happy and lovable friend Wufu. This is a really interesting book, at times quite funny, maddening and tear-jerking. I highly recommend this read.
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-the-world
It is difficult for me to rate and review books from other cultures because I have no frame of reference for their native genres or other literary context. A friend told me to just base it on how the book made me feel, so here goes:

I liked this book. The characters are engaging and interesting. There is a combination of almost slapstick humor and painful social commentary that gives depth to the story, and the end really shocked me. I am grateful to Amazon Crossing for bringing this author to an
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly don't know how to rate this really. This is so far out of my wheelhouse, yet I did enjoy it almost all the way through. The book was very character-driven and for me that was good, I generally like a really character driven story. I just think that if you need a little bit more substance or meaning to the plot then you'll be disappointed in this. Or maybe that's just me. When I stopped trying to figure out if there was a point I was missing, it became much more enjoyable.

I loved the
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the book had been shorter I would have given four stars. In the afterword the author reveals that he intentionally made the narrative and voice of Happy, the trash picker, awkward and crude. Makes sense, but also makes for tough reading! The dialogue was clipped and rife with scatology, but I had to love Happy who sums up his raison d'etre "…everyone should have a bird singing inside them as well as a crow cawing". This book, written originally in Chinese, was unconventional, but a welcome ch ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never read any Chinese literature before, but this new novel is a joy. The translation by Nicky Harman deals with multiple dialects, puns, jokes, and assorted other difficulties, but still it reads easily in English. It's the story of a trash picker fresh from the countryside to the big city of H'ian, his best friend from back home, the love of his life who just happens to be a hooker, and the assorted high and low points of their day to day life. Happy Liu is the main character - he changed ...more
Harry Allagree
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I became acquainted with this book through Amazon Kindle, & since I know little about contemporary Chinese culture, I thought it would be a good reading choice. Jia Pingwa's novel was just the right thing. Probably the most helpful section was the Author's Note: Happy and Me, at the end of the book. The book took several years to write & went through some serious revision multiple times. It's based on a living person, Liu Shuzhen who changed his name to Liu Gaoxing = "Happy Liu", and app ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fernando Palos
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First Chinese author but certainly not the last.

The story line kept me into the plot even though it wasn't focused at times for me. When one of the characters dies it shocked me and felt sad. This is the first time I have felt this from reading a book.
The translator did an outstanding job.
Feb 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
Really disappointed

The book really doesn't have a story. I really wanted to leave it after I was half way through,. But kept reading with the hope that the story will lead you to somewhere. But its just a tale of two friends and their daily chores.
Muhammad Noor
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the things that I found interesting during my early days in Dubai was the sight of construction workers being transported on the highways. These white busses, travelling back and forth every sunrise and sunset was something new to me. We have migrant workers where I am from, but they are normally housed near their work areas and not in specific housing compounds as they are here in the UAE.

Watching them packed in seats, often nodding off to sleep, some with their headsets on, others chat
Sadiq. PhD
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jia Pingwa is one of the foremost contemporary Chinese writers. This is the second book I read after accidentally discovering Jia Pingwa while talking to one of my Chinese student about literature.
Being in China for four years, I traveled across China from north to south and east to west came across many villages and characters mentioned in this book. This is indeed a true picture of the harsh life and poverty of migrant workers working in big Chinese cities. And also portrayed a realistic pict
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The chapters were short but there were many of them and it took a lot longer to finish than I would have liked. The plot dragged at times which could have been a function of the translation or intentional to build attachment to the characters. The idea for the story was a good one - to tell the story of migrant country workers who moved to the city "for a better life" as trash pickers. The food, the setting and the cultural differences were fascinating ...more
Okay, this book is okay. Took SO LONG to read it. If you've ever been to China or lived there, you will find it very "China". Mannerism and way of thinking are very prevalent throughout the book which might remind you of living in China. To a certain extent nothing really happens int eh book it just tells the story of peasants moving to the city for a better life for themselves/their families back tending the fields while they are away. It is also a tale of friendship and the promises we make to ...more
Ummmm, guys, this book is FREE today for Kindle. NO REASON NOT TO GET IT RIGHT HERE. ...more
Melody Daggerhart
Notes of Interest:

I downloaded this book via Amazon Prime because I’m always curious to read Asian literature. I used to live in Japan, and my ex-husband used to live in Taiwan. And while in Japan, South Korean and Taiwanese culture seeped into my music, literature, TV viewing, language skills, etc. So, I just have a keen interest in these cultures in general now. Having lived there, much of it “feels like home” to me. And yet, not being a native of the region, there is always something new to l
Lex Poot
While theme of the story was interesting I thought the book sagged under its own weight. It should have been a much better book if it was 200 pages shorter. And after having to plow through 420 pages the Author found it necessary to tag along another 30 pages to discuss how he came up with the theme. To me purely academic.
Bianca Smith
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
It was over; the woman called it off. So, Hawa Liu did the thing he thought best. He bullied his best friend, Wufu, into leaving their village to seek their fortunes in Xi’an. And because Hawa wasn’t a good name for a new beginning, he changed his name to Happy. Because that happy is what he wanted to be.

Happy Dreams is Jia Pingwa’s “novel” of migrant workers lives in Xi’an, China. I use novel loosely because it’s modeled on an actual Happy Liu, a schoolmate of Jia’s. You don’t find out any of t
Barry LaFLeur
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Unexpected pleasure

I downloaded this book as my Kindle free selection. I am glad I did. I like learning about different cultures through reading. This book examines what happens when poor villagers go to the city to survive. The author really develops the protagonists so that you really care for them and want them to succeed. Enjoyed this book all the way through. Highly recommend.
Joyce (Chloe)
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am so 'happy' I chose this Kindle First book for my September selection. I may have a weird sense of humor, but I really loved this book. I was engrossed from the beginning, and did not want it to end. I will be reading more from this author. ...more
I received the kindle version of this novel in a Goodreads Giveaway in return for an honest review. I was excited that this was a contemporary novel of life in China as a migrant worker. I already knew how difficult life in the city is for migrant workers, but they still come to the city to seek out their fortunes.

However, what made this a difficult read for me was the main character. In the author's note, you learn that Pingwa intentionally made his characters awkward and gritty, which helps to
Hannah Mason
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Three stars because this is a great idea for a book and an important story to tell, but I didn't actually enjoy reading it.

According to the author's note at the end, the idea for this book is to tell a story from the perspective of someone whose story never gets told--one of the many thousands of migrant workers in China's cities. It's the story of a man who renames himself Happy Liu in his optimistic move from the rural village of Freshwind to the big city of Xi'an with his best friend Wufu, ho
Helen Wang
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a few chapters into this book and it's brilliant! I haven't read the Chinese text, and I won't because this feels absolutely authentic and is a joy to read in English. Nicky's language is light and fast, beautifully paced, the vocabulary and phrasing are spot-on, and I find myself rooting for Happy and Wufu (especially Wufu). I don't know any trash-pickers in Xi'an, but I'm nodding and smiling in recognition as I read - the characters in this book, their foibles, the things they say and do a ...more
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book could be an interesting look at an unheralded lower class from another culture; certainly, the characters are a bit different from the Western norm. Unfortunately, the book is very slow and not particularly analytical or insightful. It is a descriptive story of the challenges and lifestyle of trash pickers in Xi’an. The most thoughtful and nuanced, and therefore most interesting, part of the book is the author’s afterward, when he describes his thought process, research and inspiration ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. It follows Happy, a migrant worker who moved to the city from his life in the hardscrabble countryside. He becomes a trash picker, and together with his friend Wufu tries to make a better life.

This book requires some patience. There’s no central plot, nothing that moves the action of the book forward. Occasionally subplots emerge, like when Happy falls in love with a prostitute. But ultimately the beauty of the book is the beauty of the characters: the cheer, grace,
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