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Momo

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Thoughts? (including spoilers)

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So, what did you think? Did you like the book?

I liked it but I would have liked a more wrapped-up ending, I would like to know what happened to Luo and his friend, what to the Little Seamstress? Anyone else any complaints?

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It didn't do it for me I'm afraid.

 

The historical background wasn't new to me: like many people I'd read Wild Swans by Jung Chang and also some of her recent book on Mao, so it was just with recognition rather than any sense of shock that I read about the boys' 're-education' in the far-flung village.

 

I expected more to be made of the book finds and their contents, but perhaps that wasn't visual enough for the author bearing in mind his background.

 

It was easy enough to read but that's not altogether complimentary.

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I enjoyed it very much, it was a lovely simple story. Like Momo I would have liked to find out what happened to the 3 main characters but apart from that I have no complaints. A good BGO choice. :D

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I enjoyed it as well. It didn't keep me on the edge of my seat guessing where it would go, but it was a nice easy read....and just enjoyable.

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I thought this a delightful book and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a shame it was so short as I felt that maybe we had more to learn about the three characters ... what happened to the two friends once the little seamstress had left them. Did they ever meet up with her again or Four Eyes?

 

Anyway, thanks for letting me join in on the group, it is certainly a book I would not have read or chosen if not for this group and I therefore look forward to many more reads. :)

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I found this an interesting little book. Like chuntzy I have read Wild Swans, so was aware of the process of re-education that was practiced in Mao's time. It is difficult, however, too keep in mind the time that this was happening - not in some unenlightened distant past, but less than 40 years ago!

 

The main thought left with me is - How dangerous literature can be!

It is amazing to consider that a novel can impart a complete change in the way someone thinks and functions in the world. It's no wonder that dictators down the ages have sought to ban or destroy literature.

 

I wonder what it is like to have a completely different understanding of how you can stand in relationship with the world suddenly opened up to you, as happened to the narrator when he read Jean-Christophe? Or how the ideas imparted in books can impel you to leave home and family to persue a completely different life.

 

This theme, the power of education and reading, has been used by many of the Victorian novelists, and more recent 'classic' authors such as D.H.Lawrence, Hardy and A.J.Cronin, (and is also a theme of my favourite MMs*).

 

It seems a shame that the messages in the powerful novels of the past are taken and diluted in the torrent of lightweight fiction we are deluged with these days. Not that my taste is for the literary heavyweights :o

 

*misery memoirs

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Well, I haven't read Wild Swans, it's on my TBR pile ... :rolleyes:

I was aware that this re-education process had been taking place but I had never read about characters involved in it.

And it is pretty daunting if you think that this wasn't so long ago. Actually, the two boys are not much older than me, so if I had lived in China this might have happened to me. But then, I grew up in the countryside, I might have been more like the little seamstress (or less) than the boys and they wouldn't have had to send me there.

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I've not read Wild Swans either and so the scale of the re-education was new a me. There's a separate thread for that and so if I have anything to add to that discussion, I'll do so there.

 

I'd have liked a more concrete ending too. I'm sure about the part about two-thirds of the way through where we shift between different narrators of the same event, though it didn't detract from the book at all.

 

I thought it was a pretty good read but nothing spectacular. It's telling that I've had it borrowed from the library for a fortnight before reading it, and I guess it's what a real-life book group read would be when I'm not sure about it. I put off reading it and then "ploughed through" rather than reading it for pleasure.

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I have read Wild Swans, but totally forgot about the re-education (it was rather a long time ago!). The only bit of the book that didn't work for me was the three chapters in the middle where the writer changed perspective for some reason, I think one chapter was written from the point of view of the Seamstress, etc. Why do you think this was? I don't think it worked, myself.

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The only bit of the book that didn't work for me was the three chapters in the middle where the writer changed perspective for some reason, I think one chapter was written from the point of view of the Seamstress, etc. Why do you think this was? I don't think it worked, myself.
No, the three chapters where The Old Miller, The Little Seamstress and Lao each gave their versions of the swimming sessions didn't work for me, either. It gave a completely different feel to the book, and I found it distracting.

While I was reading those chapters I thought the three of them were acting as witnesses in some sort of enquiry, and then it all went back to the original narrative style.

Very odd :confused:

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I thought it odd that he went back to the narrative style, too. However, I really liked the other perspectives and would have liked more of them.

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I finally managed to get hold of a copy of this. My first attempt got lost in the post.

 

I really enjoyed this short novel. It was more involving than I expected. Even though the characters weren’t explored or developed greatly, I still managed to be involved and concerned with their story.

The end, when it comes, is sudden but no less perfect for that.

 

I'd like to see the film. Has anyone seen it?

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No, the three chapters where The Old Miller, The Little Seamstress and Lao each gave their versions of the swimming sessions didn't work for me, either. It gave a completely different feel to the book, and I found it distracting.

While I was reading those chapters I thought the three of them were acting as witnesses in some sort of enquiry, and then it all went back to the original narrative style.

Very odd :confused:

Yes, I was expecting the novel to completely change and to be told in flashback from there on. So, I'm not sure why he did that.

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Unfortunately, I haven't seen the novel. But I'd love to. So, maybe someone here will tell us about it.

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Unfortunately, I haven't seen the novel. But I'd love to. So, maybe someone here will tell us about it.

:confused: Have I missed something, or do you mean Wild Swans?

That is an autobiography/family memoir/recent history of China, and there is a thread (only 2 posts so far:() in the Biography forum.

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No, I meant Balzac and the Little Seamstress. I referred to tagesmann's question whether anybody had seen the movie.

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No, I meant Balzac and the Little Seamstress. I referred to tagesmann's question whether anybody had seen the movie.
Ah! I was confused by the word 'novel' ;):)

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I've just finished the book, and overall, I really enjoyed it.

 

Like others, I was distracted by the change in narrators in the middle. I felt that it was an experimental device that didn't work.

 

As I said earlier, in the First Impressions thread, I'm not a big fan of the simplistic style of narration. But, on reflection, I felt it brought something to the book. It didn't over-dramatise the events, but allowed them to speak for themselves. It would be interesting to speculate what tone a Western misery memoir would strike with this material - I felt that the quiet dignity of the novel worked well in that sense.

I felt it was at its most effective at the end. The little seamstress' romantic escape to the city to follow her dreams was presented simply, as a tragedy for her family and friends but a hopeful exit for her. However, I felt that the writer was hinting at a darker fate for her in her quotation from Balzac. She was going to see what she could accomplish with her beauty - and the reader is less naive than she is.

 

I don't think it was meant to be a documentary on re-education; as has been observed, there are better books for that. I liked its lyrical qualities and the way it commented on the power of fiction. It also made me reflect, personally, on how little I value my unfettered access to books and the discussion of them. In that sense, a great BGO choice!

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It also made me reflect, personally, on how little I value my unfettered access to books and the discussion of them. In that sense, a great BGO choice!
It's true, you only value what you haven't got - or don't get easily.

As to the form of telling the story, a lot of times people just accept certain facts that influence their lives, there's nothing they can do about it (or they will be killed), so it's just normal to do whatever is done. I have read some books like that, people didn't complain, they just described their life as if it was the most normal thing to live that way - and that's what it is for them. In that respect, the two boys were nobody else than millions of other Chinese kids who were sent to the countryside for re-education. Quite normal for them.

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