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Nine Continents: A Memoir in and Out of China

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,194 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Xiaolu Guo is one of the most acclaimed Chinese-born writers of her generation, an iconoclastic and completely contemporary voice. Her vivid, poignant memoir, Nine Continents is the story of a curious mind coming of age in an inhospitable country, and her determination to seek a life beyond the limits of its borders.

Xiaolu Guo has traveled further than most to become who s
...more
Hardcover, 367 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Grove Press (first published January 26th 2017)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  1,194 ratings  ·  162 reviews


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Petra-X
If you were a woman in China, Communism was good for you. Not very good, it wasn't going to stop the sexual abuse that no one cared about it, it wasn't going to stop the murder of girl babies, it wasn't going to get you fed if there was a brother to feed first, but it was going to get you a name.

This is what stuck with me most from the book. The local Communist council went to all houses to register the people living there preparatory to the one-child policy. The author's grandmother was the adu
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Hannah
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction, arc
Absolutely wonderful memoir by a woman beyond impressive. She talks about alienation and perseverance, about loss and art, about growing up and finding herself, and everything in-between.

Xiaolu Guo's life sounds like something out of a movie: born to an intellectual who had spent time in a labour camp and a mother who was part of the Red Guard (yes, her parents met in prison), given away at birth, and then given back to her grandparents (both analphabets; her grandmother of a generation where h
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Bettie
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08crt5x

Description: Xiaolu Guo's autobiography tells her remarkable story from adoption at birth through to her career as a writer and film-maker based in the UK. This abridgement deals with her formative years, living in China in times of transition.

Xiaolu Guo is a novelist, essayist, screenwriter and film maker. She was born in south-eastern China in 1973 . Her novel, in English translation, Village of Stone, was shortlisted for the 2005 Independent Foreign Fic
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Alice Lippart
Raw, honest and fascinating.
Laura
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - book of the week:
Xiaolu Guo's autobiography tells her remarkable story from adoption at birth through to her career as a writer and film-maker based in the UK. This abridgement deals with her formative years, living in China in times of transition.

Episode 1:
For the young Xiaolu, her first home was the fishing village of Shitang where she lived with her grandparents.

Xiaolu Guo is a novelist, essayist, screenwriter and film maker. She was born in south-eastern China in 1973 . He
...more
Peter Tillman
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a pretty unpleasant read. The author had a very hard childhood, a hard student and young-adult life, and was lonely and unhappy when she moved to the UK, on a film-school scholarship that turned into a permanent move. The book does end on a more positive note.

I skimmed much of the most unpleasant material, and I wouldn't advise reading the memoir when you are feeling low. It's shocking how poorly girls and women are treated in China, if the author's experience is typical. It is well-wri
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Tara
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's strange, I don't have any particular intellectual or aesthetic pull toward China but I have been a fan of Xiao Guo's writing ever since I was enticed by her novels that I was shelving while working at the Norwich Millennium Library. I read everything they had at the time, which was in 2009. I was excited to find an extract of this autobiography in the Guardian to promote its imminent release which left me jaw on-the-floor.

This book is completely transporting, and I got through it in a few
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Lydia
First, let me say that I love Xiaolu Guo and her writing so going into this, I was biased. But bias is not always a bad thing.

I loved reading this memoir, or collection of essays. Xiaolu was (and still is) such a curious, rebellious, tireless little spirit and it was a pleasure reading about her childhood, despite how difficult aspects of it were.

She speaks with a frankness and a boldness that almost creates a disconnect in her writing, except it doesn't, and her detachment is like that of a d
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Louise
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china, women-s-issues
Through Xiaolu Guo's memoir you glimpse the life of the rural Chinese after the Cultural Revolution, but before the one child policy. Then you glimpse the changes in China as trips to Beijing (by bus) are possible and then at the end, air travel to Europe and the availability of medical treatment.

Her family was poor and they gave her away. The poor people she is given to realize that they, also, cannot feed her, so at 2 years old she is taken to her grandparents in a fishing village, later to be
...more
Laura
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
An introspective view of the author's life in China. I cannot imagine growing up as she had - starting in a poor fishing village living with her grandparents, then moving with her parents to a town where her life wasn't much better. While the book is a memoir, it does have quite a bit of history of China and its people. All around an excellent book if you are particularly interested in this time period of China.
Victoria Sadler
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book, I really did.

Any publisher that markets a new book as “the next Wild Swans” (or indeed “the next [insert title of any great book here]”) always runs a gauntlet. Sure, you’re grabbing that established audience and immediately conveying the subject and tone of the book but, oh, you’re playing with fire. That’s a huge pressure to place on any writer and so I approached Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo with both excitement and a little trepidation.

I needn’t h
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Christine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marks54
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes to appreciate a book it is important to recognize what I do not know and what about an author’s situation and life I lack access to. Xiaolu Guo was born and raised in peasant conditions in China in 1973. She is now a successful writer and film maker in England. To get to where she is now she had to escape from her provincial background, with a cherished and highly competitive slot at a national film school, win a fellowship to England to study advanced film making and then learn to cra ...more
Ella
Jan 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished the last page and shut the book. Somewhere below my stomach, a tinge of nausea was rising up. It reached my chest and sat there. It just sat there, the nausea with a weight growing by the minute. Kids were shouting from the back seat. It’s a dry winter afternoon. Dull but dry. We just finished a family walk in the woods. I let a breath out.

I was disturbed. The depressing end of the book was creeping up on me. Not the nice kind of depressing. Yes, for me, there’s a nice kind of depres
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Melinda
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Upon the birth of her daughter in England, writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo reflects on her life up to this point: her early years raised by her grandparents in a Chinese fishing village by the sea, her school years with her parents in an industrial town, her delve into film studies in a rapidly changing Beijing.

It's a fascinating life story, with sharp commentary on misogyny and art. I hadn't realized Guo was the author of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, a book I'd picked up for
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David
Jul 31, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I find it sad such a China 101 book continues to find fans in the West. It speaks to the general ignorance and misconceptions about China in the West, but also the willingness of authors to exploit a kind of exoticism. Xiaolu Guo has ONE literary device - pretend naïveté followed by feigned surprise. The thoughts in this book are quite shallow and clichéd. Even the name she gave her daughter - Moon - feels like a cliché. It really is a shame such a book can exist alongside Madeleine Thien’s Do N ...more
Mandy
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This totally absorbing and compelling memoir is an object lesson in how to write autobiography; clear, concise, honest, and with a narrative pace that keeps the reader eager to continue with the story. And it’s a remarkable life story, from poor beginnings in a remote fishing village in China to film-school in Beijing and a successful career in Britain. Thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating.
Jessica’s
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. A wonderful, deep, soul bearing memoir.
N
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Uninspired and over-generalized.
Fiona
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
My favourite book of 2018 so far.

I love Xiaolu Guo and reading her wonderful memoir gives some insight behind the stories she has written. They come from herself, her heart and soul. I've always felt whilst reading her works, that I'm almost touching a part of her.

It tells of her struggle with identity and place of belonging. China itself seems a country unsure of its own identity, on one hand it wants to set itself apart and be different, better than the west. But then in the last few years has
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Sarah
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, favorites
This is a fascinating memoir detailing Xialuo Guo's upbringing in communist China, and her complex relationship with her family.
I have read one of her previous books "20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth", but went into this book with almost no knowledge of her life. All I knew about her was that she grew up in China and moved to the U.K. Her life story is incredible, I was amazed that from such a hopeless, brutal upbringing she has gone on to achieve so much.

-Summary, contains spoilers-
Xiaolu's p
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Frederico
I just finished this book and I must say, in the excitement of the moment, that it's one of my favorite books from now on. It obviously has to do with the many similarities between Guo's life and mine. I'm from Brazil, have lived in the UK and in the Germany, spent 15 years in NYC, and I'm now living in Shanghai. I wasn't, however, abandoned by my parents as an infant. But forget all that. Guo's prose is sharp, her honesty is brave, her story is amazing. Raw ambition, drive to survive, craving t ...more
Wsclai
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been a fan of Guo and this memoir doesn't disappoint me.
On one hand, it is modern Chinese history told from a personal perspective. Guo's story reveals the absurdities of the communist regime and unfairness of a dominant patriarchal society to a girls/women.
On the other hand, it is Guo's life journey which is full of touching moments. Her distant yet intimate relationship with her grandmother has moved me to tears many times. The plight of her grandmother is indeed tragically common in r
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Flavia
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have loved and found Xiaolu Guo’s fiction so fresh and original since ‘A Concise Chinese – English Dictionary for Lovers’. I was thrilled when I discovered that she had written a memoir and ‘Nine Continents’ didn’t disappoint. At all. Far from it, I found this book absorbing, inspiring and beautifully rendered.

This memoir is the story of an artist; it’s also an essay on ambition, determination and the transformative aspect of creativity. Near the beginning of the book Guo relates an encounter
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Carol Douglas
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Xialu Guo's memoir takes us back to a tiny fishing village in China. Her parents couldn't care for her when she was a baby, so her mother gave her to another poor couple to raise. By the time the couple found her grandparents and took her to them, she was starving to death. Her grandmother managed to revive her.

Life in the fishing village was hard. Her grandfather had loved to fish along the coast, but fishing was collectivized. He had to fish as one of many on a large boat, and he hated it. He
...more
Jacqueline
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually enjoy memoirs, but the premise of this one sounded interesting because it mixed personal history with a historical background on China after the Cultural Revolution. I felt a lot of ..feelings while I read this (I know, I'm so articulate). This is one of those books I would describe as truly exemplifying why I love to read: to connect with someone, real or fictional, and finding connection and meaning in their story, despite different experiences.
Viki Cheung
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An immensely powerful, personal memoir - highly recommended.
Indu
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
really interesting insight into another culture & it's impact on us humans. enjoyed very much. recommend. ...more
Enchanted Prose
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The remarkable journey of an artist (Shitang, Wenling, Beijing, China to London; 1970s – 2016): Starving is the first word that comes to mind reflecting on the vitality and accomplishments of an artist growing up under the Communist regime of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. For it seems Xiaolu Guo has been starving much of her life. Starved for food, family, freedoms, affection, love, individuality, dignity.

Calling herself a “peasant warrior,” Guo poignantly traces in vignett
...more
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Xiaolu Guo (Simplified Chinese: 郭小櫓 pinyin:guō xiǎo lǔ, born 1973) is a Chinese novelist and filmmaker. She utilizes various media, including film and writing, to tell stories of alienation, introspection and tragedy, and to explore China's past, present and future in an increasingly connected world.

Her novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize f
...more

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