The Read Around The World Book Club discussion

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July 2018 - TAIWAN > Notebook 5 - 8

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message 1: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 338 comments Mod
Final thoughts?


message 2: by Kathrin (new)

Kathrin Just leaving finals thoughts, because I listen to this basically in one long stretch up to the 80% mark and then finished it out in two days of commuting. When I was done, I really didn’t know how to rate it at first. The book was startling to me, but I do think it’s well worth the reader’s time.
What struck me the most was the sense of normalcy the author conveyed in the unapologetic telling of Lazi’s stories. This was Taiwan in the early 1990s and the author is telling a coming of age story that could be following straight main characters. Yes, there is despair and confusion, but that’s almost any teenager. I will remember this as a story whose MC’s happen to be lesbians. Which is still to this day revolutionary, but must have been an earthquake back when it was first published.
The way I read it, the author used the notes of a crocodile to convey all the social stigma queer people have to face. Therefore she doesn’t ignore this part, but handles it separately from the main narrative. I thought this was interesting.
From a writing perspective I thought the dialogues were sometimes lame, but I typically don’t handle grand romantic revelations well, so it’s probably more me than the author.


message 3: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 338 comments Mod
Interesting thoughts Kathrin and thanks for sharing those. I agree that the dialogue was often lame, but I wonder if that is due to the translation. And the teenage angst (considering I am so far removed from that period) really got me rolling my eyes quite a bit. However, overall, I did feel that this was really quite a fantastic read. I am not sure, I am 100% in agreement with you that the MC just happened to be gay and that it was a normal coming of age story. Her loathing of herself, her destructive behaviour stemmed a lot from her not being able to come to terms with the fact that her loving women and not fitting the norm. I really enjoyed the crocodile bits, the way she had to pull on a costume to be able to fit in.


message 4: by Beatrizmallow (new)

Beatrizmallow | 36 comments Mod
I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descriptions of teenage angst and self deprecation were fantastic but the style, the dialogue and other parts of the book I wasn't the biggest fan of. I'm glad I read this book however and I can appreciate its importance, maybe it will grow on me with time and in an eventual reread.


message 5: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 338 comments Mod
Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descriptions of teenage angst and self deprecation were fantastic but the style, t..."

I agree that the teenage angst was just so well described, I still wonder if the dialogue was an issue of translation.


message 6: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments Melanie wrote: "Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descriptions of teenage angst and self deprecation were fant..."

Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descriptions of teenage angst and self deprecation were fantastic but the style, t..."

I read it in two sittings. In the middle, where she shares the reasons she is feeling so tormented, I slowed down and attempt to fully absorb her reasons. I won't change my statements I made about Notebooks 1-4, but I will say my mind set changed. I felt that her problems weren't entirely about the main topic (man it's tough not to be able to discuss plainly- apropos for the topic). I began to believe that she suffered from low self esteem, mental instability, dysfunctional relationships, attachment and commitment issues to name a few. She was already an unhealthy person, who's saturation and culture were the nail in the coffin. I can't say I like it. It was difficult only in the sense of living in Lazi's skin. But, also an honor to have been given such a real and raw view into someone's life. I'm assuming this is semi-autobiographical given the fact that Qiu committed suicide.


message 7: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments * situation not saturation although that might work in context just not grammatically


message 8: by Helen (last edited Jul 22, 2018 04:45AM) (new)

Helen Noah | 5 comments I'm glad I finished the book today. Although I enjoyed descriptions of physical surroundings, the exotic names of places and people, I don't want to wallow any longer with her in the dysfunctional "relationships" she has. It seems to me like a life style she somehow cherishes , there is an intense dynamic and of course the source for journal entries. But the adolescent mind ..phew..! Forever young? No thanks. Bye bye Lazi, Shui Ling, Meng Sheng, Tun Tun,Xiao Fan!!!!


message 9: by Helen (last edited Jul 20, 2018 04:04AM) (new)

Helen Noah | 5 comments Stacey (wanderlustforwords) wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descriptions of teenage angst and self depre..." Oh dear, she commited suicide? ..That gives the whole account a sinister and all-too-real spin. I'm sad to hear that. Sad, that she never really overcame her issues.. or matured with them.


message 10: by Jo (new)

Jo | 37 comments I think this is one of the books where I can appreciate a lot about it but not necessarily enjoy it although up until the relationship with Xiao Fan I was relatively engaged. If this was a novel written in the U.S. or U.K for example in 2018, the obsessive and self-destructive behavior around relationships would probably have driven me nuts- this is despite knowing that in my first proper relationship at seventeen, I was probably as obsessive and insecure as the characters in this book.

What elevates it though is the fact these are characters coming to terms with their sexuality at a time when being queer was not generally accepted or understood - although I understand that Taiwan is now one of the most progressive countries in Asia regarding LGBTQ rights. Society was regimented and had high expectations and definitions of success that put further pressures on young people.

However while the relationship with Shui Ling was dramatic and torturous enough, that with Xiao Fan just became endless dialogue rehashing the same points in slightly different ways and I found myself not caring. I cared far more about her friendships with Meng Sheng and Chu Kuang, Tun Tun and Zhi Rou which didnt lead to such self-destructive, apathetic behavior which felt suffocating to read. Also, despite appreciating the use of the crocodile wearing human skin as a symbol for having to hide who you really are, I still found this sections confusing.

Having said all this, I’m glad I read this as a window in to what it was like to be queer and young in this time and place and I think if she’d lived longer Qiu Miaojin would have been an interesting writer to watch.


message 11: by Marie (new)

Marie (marieemonaghan) | 59 comments Having just finished this, I feel exactly the same about the book getting much more difficult to read once Xiao Fan enters the picture. It felt like it became more repetitive and the dialogue was harder to follow. I found it difficult to keep track of which of the women was speaking.

My overall impression of this book is of sadness. I can’t get away from the suspicion that it’s semi-autobiographical, which made the whole thing feel uncomfortably intimate and painful. But the voice felt fresh and I loved a lot of her turns of phrase and observations on life. It is sad that this young talent ended her life so soon.


message 12: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments Kathrin wrote: "Just leaving finals thoughts, because I listen to this basically in one long stretch up to the 80% mark and then finished it out in two days of commuting. When I was done, I really didn’t know how ..."


Absolutely! I felt the same way. I thought Lazi's sexual orientation was only a piece of the very large pie.


message 13: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments Helen wrote: "Stacey (wanderlustforwords) wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descript..."

Yes! It makes it even more tragic. It felt like she was trying to come to terms with her life and feelings, but it became a suicide letter.


message 14: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments Jo wrote: "I think this is one of the books where I can appreciate a lot about it but not necessarily enjoy it although up until the relationship with Xiao Fan I was relatively engaged. If this was a novel wr..."

You're right. The lessons didn't get learned. What did good old Einstein say, at least I think it was him, paraphrasing here, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting a different result.

I was an extremely insecure and inwardly shy teenager, actually into my early twenties. No one knew my reality because on the surface I was very social, an extrovert. However, this in no way drew me to unhealthy or abusive relationships. There is much more involved where that is concerned.


message 15: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments Melanie wrote: "Interesting thoughts Kathrin and thanks for sharing those. I agree that the dialogue was often lame, but I wonder if that is due to the translation. And the teenage angst (considering I am so far r..."

Translation continues to be a big question in any work. Because, I only speak and read English, I have never been able to compare an original text to a translated version. I have several friends that attest to the fact that the turn of phrase or tone can be, in some cases, vast.


message 16: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments My review is up and EDITED. I don't know if it was three in the morning when I wrote it the first time (they call it a shitty first draft for a reason) but holy moly what a train wreck. hahahaha


message 17: by Candace (new)

Candace | 53 comments Stacey I think you’ve summed up the book very well and I agree with your review. I had an extremely difficult time making myself read the second part of the book and skimmed most but the crocodile parts. The destructive feelings and actions were very hard to read about. As many said I felt it was getting repetitive and wondering what some parts added to the story.
I will remember this book as something I’m glad I read to gain a greater understanding of the author’s life.


message 18: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) | 82 comments Candace wrote: "Stacey I think you’ve summed up the book very well and I agree with your review. I had an extremely difficult time making myself read the second part of the book and skimmed most but the crocodile ..."

It did feel repetitive Candace. I think the author was trying to come to terms with her problems, mirrored by Lazi. Being glad to have learned about the author and her life is something that didn't occur to me but I agree with that.


message 19: by Justyna M (new)

Justyna M | 14 comments Stacey (wanderlustforwords) wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descriptions of teenage angst and self depre..."

It was not an easy read and a very sad one. The thing that kept coming to my mind was what Stacey mentioned, that coming to terms with Lazi's sexuality was only one of her issues, she seemed to have other problems - commitment issues, self-destructiveness and mental instability to start with- it seemed to me much more than teenage angst -also considering it's hard not to read it as a semi-autobiographical book and the author's tragic end.


message 20: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 338 comments Mod
Justyna wrote: "Stacey (wanderlustforwords) wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Beatrizmallow wrote: "I just finished the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, some parts of it I liked, I think that the descript..."

True, knowing what happened to the author puts the whole story into a completely different light.


message 21: by Susan (new)

Susan | 13 comments It has taken several weeks for me to come to terms with this novel. To me the story reads as a memoir. I found the relationships in the book with people other than her first love to be fascinating and the crocodile sections added levity.


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