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Three Sisters

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  710 ratings  ·  114 reviews

In a small village in China, the Wang family has produced seven sisters in its quest to have a boy; three of the sisters emerge as the lead characters in this remarkable novel. From the small-town treachery of the village to the slogans of the Cultural Revolution to the harried pace of city life, Bi Feiyu follows the women as they strive to change the course of their desti

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 9th 2010 by Mariner Books (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.02  · 
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Hari Krishnan Prasath (The Obvious Mystery)
Reading is one of the most intimate ways to find empathy and step into the shoes of someone who's different than us. It makes us feel what the other has gone through in words that entertain and educate at the same time.  A translated book, captured with the intention of retaining the essence as much as the original, are shoes that take us for a mile in someone else's life.

Yumi, Yuxiu and Yuyang, the three titular sisters hail from a small village in a post cultural revolution China. They come f
Shivangi Tiwari
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One can't figure out just by one read how accurate a portrayal this is, but one can certainly figure out that it's a riveting plot with wonderfully developed characters. I'd recommend it to everyone, I just wish it didn't end when it did. ...more

I really think it loses something in translation. The prose just feels flat and unengaging. Trying to be stricter about DNFing this year, so after the good old 10% try, on the discard pile it goes.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Village life anywhere has always been tough and China in 1971 is no different. The opportunities to get ahead are few and the collective judgment of the populace is swift and brutal. In The Three Sisters, the Wangs are The Family in their small Chinese village. Father Wang Lianfang is a Party Secretary and as a result the family's prominence is assured. At the novel's start the family has a new reason to celebrate. After seven daughters a son has finally been born. The satisfaction the Wangs hav ...more
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Three sister's stories out of a family of 7 girls and 1 boy. Why not a book called 7 sisters? Actually it was an interesting book of two sister's stories about life in rural China during the Cultural Revolution and a rather different story about the youngest story at teacher's college in the early 1980s.
The first two parts are interesting with the focus on the lack of rights women had, the importance of women keeping their virginity to marriage, the hypocrisy of men who can be sexual predators
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book teaches one a lot about life in China in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution years. It's written in three parts. The first two parts are interesting, suspenseful, dramatic. The third part made me want to throw the book away and never recommend it. It was boring and anti-climactic, and other than the fact a third sister was needed to round out the archetypal three, I would have been just as happy to have read a book called Two Sisters. ...more
Let me first get one thing straight: this is not chick-lit. I saw a review of this book in which it was classified as such, but whoever wrote that about Three Sisters clearly did not get it, nor did he/she know much of the novel's historical background.
With that off my chest, I have to admit that I am not particularly enthusiastic about the book. Bi Feiyu attempt at a satiric, yet tragic portrayal of Chinese village life in the mid-70s (up to the 1980s) is a good one, but the bleakness and cruel
Cathe Fein Olson
Jun 28, 2010 rated it liked it
This book tells the stories of three sisters in a Chinese family of seven sisters and one brother. The story of Yumi, the eldest sister was great. She was such an interesting character who took a stand against her father's philandering. This section of the book brought in the family dynamics and really showed how the village worked which was hilarious. That section gets 5 stars. The second section was about the third sister, Yuxio, who after being gang raped, wants to escape the gossip of the vi ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-asia
The narrative here just fell so flat. There was no life in the voice of this novel. I think this may be a reflection on the translation, and I don't necissarily mean that the translator did a lousy job. I'm just thinking that perhaps this particular novel just doesn't traslate. I mean, Chinese and English are like night and day. Maybe this novel just does not have the same oomph in an English translation. But whatever, it was just totally D.O.A. Oh, and almost all the women's names, and some of ...more
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to rate this book a 4 out of 5. In describing the lives and characters of eldest sister Yumi and third sister Yuxiu, Bi managed to weave an intricate plot that brought out the nuances of everyday life during the Cultural Revolution and I literally could not put the book down. Unfortunately, when it came to the part about youngest sister Yuyang, Bi's literary magic seemed to diminish with each page. ...more
Richa Bhattarai
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I found this novel strange and slightly dissatisfying. That's entirely personal - my expectations are sky high for female characters, and sisterhood.

It's well written. A tale of the Wang family, the mother has seven daughters in hope of a son. The story then follows three daughters, through tales of love, compromise and betrayal, coming of age and harsh realities of life. Their journeys are interespered with the expectations of Chinese society, ideas of right and wrong, judgement and values.

Suman Maurya
Dec 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: around-the-world
A tragic tale of three sisters.

It's set in rural China around the 70s and 80s, following three sisters in their journey through power, ambition, jealousy, and miseries. I really liked this book but what stopped me from increasing the stars is that it lacked a real plot and how the book ended at nowhere. But this book sure contains something every woman can relate to and it makes me want to read more books from Bi Feiyu.

rating: 3.5
A struggle.

This was a slow read - a really slow read! I found the writing style painfully awkward, possibly due to the translation, possibly due to the fact that this is a book written in a Chinese dialect for a Chinese audience. It just didn't seem to be going anywhere. Having said that, and having been to a book group to discuss the book, I now feel that, retrospectively, Three Sisters did have quite a lot to offer, I just needed help to interpret it.

Yumi, Yuxiu and Yuyang are the three sister
Mar 06, 2015 added it
I honestly have no idea what number of stars to give this book as my views on at are so conflicting. On the one hand I loved it for the slice of life it showed me of China. It's certainly not something I've read about before if I've read anything about China it's always been set in Beijing or Shanghai so this was incredibly eye-opening and insightful.

However, each section finished abruptly without a climax or a conclusion. I know some writers prefer this style, indicating that life is going to c
Mar 18, 2011 rated it liked it
I read this book while I was away in Adelaide at the History Teachers Association Conference, and it was a bizarre experience to be spending the day discussing a 21st century curriculum for Australia while at night reading about such anachronistic ways of life in China.

Three Sisters won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2010. It consists of three inter-related short stories, written in a blunt, often coarse style which (I assume) is meant to replicate or to mock the ‘earthiness’ of peasant life.
Amy Banker
Apr 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
I read about half of this book before dropping it for good. it’s set during the cultural revolution in china, and the summary led me to believe that it was a feminist book about the solidarity between all of these sisters. it was misogynistic, pro-rape, and depicted all of the women as competitors who hated one another. I don’t think a single woman in this book had a real relationship with another woman that wasn’t dependent on competition and loathing. the narrator and the characters talk about ...more
Rashid Al gaoud
Mar 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A story about the lives of three sisters in communist China in the 1980s; divided into three chapters, one per sister. The chapters felt like they were chopped out of a bigger novel as they don't seem to conclude properly. The last chapter felt like it came out of nowhere and went nowhere in particular and did not overlap with the previous two. Very little of the context is explained for those unfamiliar with the designations, the heirarchy and the structure of the community. Most of it went ove ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
Poignant, harrowing, bleak but gripping...I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Bi Feiyu's fictional sisters Yumi, Yuxiu, and Yuyang each successively try to improve their lots in life - and in some cases, simply survive - when given very limited options and forced to face systemic sexism, manipulation, and abuse. "Women hold up half the sky," indeed! The translation is beautifully done and Bi Feiyu tells these country and city stories with nuance, fine historical detail, and attention to ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Really good beginning and middle but really bad ending. Most of the third part talked about the school and the environment the third sister was in but like other reviewers, I felt that it was disconnected and strange. It ruined the book for me, especially when the first two parts were so good.
Shankari Palanichamy
Three sisters follows the journey of 3 sisters in a family of 10 set in rural China (the title alone gives you a brief of the synopsis).

We follow the lives of these female protagonists who each choose a different path for themselves. The eldest bears the brunt of being the eldest, and understands responsibilities that maybe is a very common cultural trait in Asia. From taking over motherly duties for the last child in the family, to making sure her family is taken care of even during the time s
Mariam Mukaty
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the first two sisters' stories, the third seemed completely disconnected, though the first sister did make a cameo appearance in the third sister's story! I would enjoyed this book more had it been called Two Sisters.
That aside, the book was reminiscent of "Brothers" by Yu Hua, not because of the title but because of the narrative style and humour.
Ishita Singhal
I picked up this book because:

1. Recipient of Man Booker Prize
2. My wish to read a chinese author
3. Interesting plotline

But I was highly disappointed with the entire book. The synopsis was given as if the 3 sisters were very different from each other and their differences lead to their different lifestyles. But I can safely say that none of them are different as everyone was only interested in 2 things: men and babies.
It was more like how 3 people eventually come to the same ending. I believe th
Shreya Vaid
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
#QOTD: Have you read any unique book this year? A genre that is out of your comfort zone? 💭
This year has been very unique for me in terms of reading. I am trying out some new regimes for my reading habit, which also includes reading books of genre that I’ve never read before.
So this week, I finished up a gorgeous book that has been translated from Chinese, Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu. 👯 In a small country village of China, Wang family has produced seven girls in hope of that one son who could sol
Katrina Tan
I have read quite a few Chinese authors and when it comes to sex, rape or any other sexual predation on women, they all seem to write it the same way - clinical, detached and wholly emotionless. I've wondered whether this was simply the style of Dai Sijie, Yu Hua, Ma Jian, Su Tong, and now Bi Feiyu, or simply the Chinese's approach to this.

Having not been able to read Wolf Totem (I just could not get past the first 4 pages), I was a little hesitant about this... I had wanted to read "The Moon Op
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, fiction, china
A really gripping read about, er, three sisters. It's set in China in the 1970s but what is immediately apparent is that for women, life and the way they are treated in Mao's China had not improved much since 'The Good Earth'. They are still bound by tradition, subject to malicisous gossip and jealousy, are considered ruined if they suffer rape and have to fight for recognition in a society that values boys and men far more.

What's especially good about the novel is that while they seek differen
Devon Flaherty
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the second book that I have read in my learning-culture-through-fiction, China kick. I am going to China in July. Perhaps I can get four more books read. I already have three waiting on the shelf and one of them is a bit enormous.
There are similarities between this novel and the previous, The Boat to Redemption. It takes place during the same political epoch, and there is the same obsession with sex. This book, however, deals with the powerlessness of women in that society, and how they
Joseph Sverker
Well, I do not understand how this book could receive the Asian version of the Man Booker Prize. It is to me a badly written account of three sisters that is set in Communist China, but without making any use or giving any further insights of that society. It might possibly be that the account of the third sister gives the reader a little insight into what it might have been to be living in that time and that place and of course the first sister's story is placed in a setting where her life is p ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has 3 stories, each about one sister. The first 2 stories were great. I actually dreamed about about the characters one night and wondered how they were doing when I woke up, before realizing they actually don't exist! The description of characters, their emotional roller coasters, the depiction of women's life in China, of their role in society, in work and in the family is perfect. If you enjoy to read about the Chinese culture and specially about women in China, you will like the 2/ ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it liked it
I picked this book up since I have read a lot about China. However, most of what I have read is about Imperial China where this book is set in 1970 so it is a more "modern" book about a family and the life of three sisters. It is almost like 3 short stories rather than a novel. The two sister's stories tie together and give two different points of view but the third one to me was completely separate from the others. I was shocked by the horrible names the sisters called each other but I wanted i ...more
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book as it was a very different genre to the books I usually read - I'm not familiar with Chinese fiction so I thought I'd give it a try. I should have gone for another book, to be honest. Very bleak, and very heavy.

The book, while it included some interesting history and had footnotes to explain proverbs and phrases along the way, it still made for very hard reading due to the subject matter. Rape, unwanted pregnancy, affairs, the mistreatment of women, even the handful of sex
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Bi Feiyu, born 1964 in Xinghua, Jiangsu, is a Chinese writer. He is a resident of Nanjing. His name, Feiyu, means "one who flies across the universe".

His works are known for their complex portrayal of the "female psyche." Feiyu's novel The Moon Opera (青衣), translated by Howard Goldblatt, was longlisted for the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, while Three Sisters (玉米 ,玉秀,玉秧), also translate

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