Nancy Oakes's Reviews > Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
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Feb 12, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: translated-fiction, chinese-fiction

Set during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, the book is largely a story of the power of storytelling. T wo teenage boys have been sent to live in the country (their parents are class enemies) on a mountain known as Phoenix in the Sky. Told mostly from the point of view of one of the boys (although this changes toward the end), it is the story of how in the midst of carrying buckets filled with excrement on slippery trails, they find a stash of books owned by another boy there for re-education, Four Eyes. They make a deal with him and get a copy of a Balzac novel, and things change. Through Balzac, they discover things somewhat alien to their environment -- "awakening desire, passion, impulsive action, love..." (57). One of the boys, Luo, falls in love with the nameless Little Seamstress, daughter of the local tailor, and together they plot to steal the entire suitcase stash of Four Eyes' books. But that decision is costly, and makes the reader contemplate the entire meaning of "re-education."

A phenomenal story, the author delivers on many levels, so even though it's a short book, there's a lot to consider between the covers. Highly recommended.
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Reading Progress

February 12, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 23, 2008 – Finished Reading
August 24, 2013 – Shelved as: translated-fiction
August 24, 2013 – Shelved as: chinese-fiction

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Nancy Oakes My bookgroup really liked this book and although it was months ago, they still bring it up from time to time. Thanks for your comment!


message 2: by Dottie (last edited Jun 30, 2009 04:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dottie An absoulutely stunning book and glad you happened onto it, Patricia. Hope you enjoy it!

Liked the review, too, Nancy.


Nancy Oakes Thanks! I appreciate that very much.


message 4: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Grinton I agree. It's a very good book and it makes you long to read Balzac, whose books tend to be somewhat longer than this.


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