TAC Book Lovers' Group discussion

Big Breasts and Wide Hips
This topic is about Big Breasts and Wide Hips
10 views
Big Breasts and Wide Hips by Mo Yan

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Drew | 15 comments Mod
(Would have been discussed on April 16, 2020)

Greetings Bibliophiles,

Because of the coronavirus, its effects, and the temporary closure of the Tokyo American Club, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to move some of our discussion online. If you've had a chance to read and/or complete Mo Yan's 'Big Breasts and Wide Hips', I would love to hear what you think!

Personally, I found this to be one of the more difficult books I've read in a while. I don't mean that in a bad way though! Primarily, there were a lot of characters and events and it felt like, as the book progressed, there were even more characters and events introduced. It was hard for me to keep up and digest everything going on.

In one way I feel that, maybe, this difficulty is related to my low degree of familiarity with Chinese culture and history. Perhaps, if I knew more about the past 100 years of Chinese history, I'd be able to glean a lot more out of his novel. I was also thinking that the excess of characters and events is exactly what makes it so Chinese. I'm not sure, did you feel the same? Any insights which could help me contextualize my perspective on it? At the very least, this was a novel that was constructed in a way that I was very unfamiliar with so it was exciting to be exposed to something so unique.

There were a lot of very beautiful descriptions too, even in translation much of Mo Yan's poetic passages and observations hold up! I particularly liked the parts with the Bird Fairy and the birth scene in the very beginning, though I found Jintong's obsession with breasts to feel a bit tired by the last third of the book. Mother's grace and patience with the family was incredible considering everything that they'd been through.

What did you think?


message 2: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Takahashi | 3 comments Commented on this book and lost it. Checking if goes thru now and will rewrite.


message 3: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Takahashi | 3 comments Ok! Now working!
The virus has caused a rearrangement of our lives.
Hiro and I got caught in different countries. I also couldn’t take my planned Shikoku ohenro trip as am in USA. So now reading, gardening and building a patio in backyard here in Kansas.

It took a bit but I got through “Big Breasts.and Wide Hips”.

While reading, I was, as always, keeping up
On Japan-Chinese and China-USA relations.
As my focus, in grad school,
was China; 1800
To 1959, I was enthused about this book. One can have an conceptual understanding of historical and political events/ideas but lack the understanding of the humanity and feelings of living through those times. This novel provided an emotional context of a family going through the events that included the chaos of foreign invasion and domestic civil war in China. That is the value of literature to the study of history.

Mother was amazing-she survived but never bought in or got rolled over by the continued saga of chaos and loss. She shows a Chinese resilience for enduring tragedy (not unlike Japanese).

I was disappointed in what happened to the “only son”
His life was so less than it could have been.
But I think it is symbolic that life after all that has happened in China over the decades had disappointing results (and continues to be the same under the dictatorship of Xi). No wonder the Chinese government doesn’t like this author!

As for the Novel itself I agree that it was tiring to read about the breast fixation and would also add the discussions of the environs was tedious. It also took a lot of checking back to follow the different characters.
Thank you for introducing this book. It added texture to my China travels and studies. ( my husband met in grad school studying Chinese)


message 4: by Lin (new)

Lin Zhao-Printz | 3 comments Mo Yan summarizes the most turbulent 80 years of the recent Chinese history in this book. For readers with some understanding of China and Chinese history the plot and characters are very easy to be followed and categorized. I agree with Drew that at times readers are confused with the many characters that come and go- I have to use the “ list of characters” at the front of the book to remember the relationships between them. This book is not intending to tell stories of those “small” people as such but the events, mostly tragic, that impacted China- Mother. If all the daughters represented Chinese people in different stages of history, I wonder what Jinton- the golden boy- represents? Is he a survivor, or just an disappointment?


Drew | 15 comments Mod
Jintong, he was a very complicated and, at times, frustrating for me to follow. Maybe he is supposed to be both a survivor and a disappointing son. Not sure how he was intended to be categorized by Mo Yan but he did feel like a disappointment as I was reading it. How did the bird fairy fit into this story? I can understand how shaman-like roles fit into different societies but I feel like third sister wasn't just this role. How was she fitting into this?


message 6: by Lin (new)

Lin Zhao-Printz | 3 comments I browsed a little online to try to find more Chinese comments on this book. I’m very disappointed- there is not much to be found. Most comments concentrated on the role and image of “Mother”, in the sense of a mother as such. One comment quoted Mo Yan that Jintong was Mo Yan himself- weak, coward and helpless, that’s how Mo Yan felt about himself. I feel Jintong is everyone of us in China that survive.

As to the bird fairy there is no mention of her in any commentaries. When I read about her I almost felt a little heartwarming to see how people tried to find consolation in a poor girl despite her own tragic circumstances. Such rituals, or we called superstitious beliefs, have been widespread in China even till now. When life is so hard and so hopeless, you turn to the supernatural power.


message 7: by Lin (new)

Lin Zhao-Printz | 3 comments ....you turn to the supernatural power.


back to top