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Loving Sabotage [Hardcover]

Amelie Nothomb
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

25 April 2001

'I lived everything during these three years: heroism, glory, treachery, love, indifference, suffering, humiliation. It was China, I was seven years old.'

So announces the narrator of Loving Sabotage, Amelie Nothomb's critically acclaimed novel about a young girl already stripped of illusions. The daughter of diplomats posted to Peking in the mid-seventies, our unnamed narrator charges about her tightly enclosed world on her 'horse' (bicycle) with the dictatorial clarity and loneliness of a warrior-philosopher. 'From puberty onwards', she announces at one point, 'life is just an epilogue'. There, on the asphalt-playground-battlefield, she discovers her first love: six-year-old Elena, her very own coldly indifferent 'Helen of Troy'. But she also learns life's hardest rule: that if she wants to be loved, she must be cruel in return. Poignant, provocative - and often hilarious - Loving Sabotage chronicles one girl's precocious understanding of the struggles and pains of adult life.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing (25 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811214591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811214599
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 13.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,463,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A bold, ambitious and subversive piece of storytelling.’ -- The Times

‘Stunningly original … The portrayal of ensuing loss of childhood innocence is both fiercely comic and painfully cruel.’ -- Observer --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Belgian by nationality, Amélie Nothomb was born in Kobe, Japan, and currently lives in Paris. Described by Time Magazine as 'prolific and ingenious', she is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, translated into thirty languages. Fear and Trembling won the Grand Prix of the Académie Française and the Prix Internet du Livre. The Book of Proper Names was originally published in France, as Robert Des Noms Propres, where it has sold over 250,000 copies. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loving Sabotage by Amelie Northomb 24 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book arrived swiftly and I was pleased with the condition and to be reusing an old library book. Good recycling and a good system, book was well worth reading too!
Northomb is an author I have recently discovered and devoured. This book is a very different read than Fear and Trembling..because it focuses on what motivates a child's behaviour. Read it
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THREE YEARS IN THE LIFE OF AN IGNORED CHILD 10 April 2002
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
The narrator of Amelie Northomb's short novel is a young girl who has evidently been grossly ignored by her parents. She is the daughter of a diplomat stationed in China during the turbulent early 1970s -- her family, as well as the families of other foreign government workers, is isolated in what she calls a 'ghetto', cut off from the Chinese people. Her father's job is frustrating -- he is there to be the Belgian contact with the Chinese government, and to keep his country informed of what is going on in China, but the Chinese are not keen to let out much in the way of general information. Even the identities of Chinese cabinet ministers is treated as a secret.
In the midst of this atmosphere, young Amelie (and the author, in an afterword, maintains that the story is a true one, that even the names have not been changed) is pretty much left to fend for herself during the days. She rides her bicycle (she refers to it as her horse) through the Peking streets, offended that the Chinese guards at the compound gate do not see her as a threat to them. She has an active imagination -- one of the blessings of being seven years old -- and sees herself in vivid roles as a hero. The other children in the compound seem to be growing up the same way, and to amuse themselves, they engage in what they call a 'war' with the children of the East German diplomats.
With the arrival of a beautiful little girl named Elena, the child of an Italian diplomat and his South American wife, Amelie feels for the first time in her young life the magnetic pull of love for another person. She is entranced and obsessively infatuated with the little girl, who is cold and distant -- which only serves to make her more of an attraction. The lessons Amelie learns about love and friendship -- and the observations she shares with us of her world -- make this a touching, readable book. The feeling I was left with after reading it was one of sadness -- there's a lot of loneliness and heartbreak in this story, lessons that are tough to see a child learn by herself.
Nothomb's writing is a little choppy -- but that is most likely appropriate in this case, given the age of the narrator. In retrospect, I think it added some authenticity to that aspect of the story. I definitely want to read more of this author's work in order to gain a better perspective on her style and talents.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Childhood: Visceral, Exhilerating and the Only Reason Worth Living 12 Feb 2008
By JET - Published on Amazon.com
This amazing book is the self-told story of a seven-year-old girl's three years in China. Amelie (the narrator never says her name, but the author's note says that the story is all true and autobiographical, and none of the names have changed) is the child of Belgian diplomats. Born in Japan, she is convinced she is Japanese until her father is posted to China, where they live for three years in the 1970s. Diplomats' families in China are mainly housed in one ghetto, and the children are almost entirely left to their own devices, outside of going to school, eating meals, and sleeping. The story describes how these children play, creating their own "war," which mirrors adult life almost exactly, but with some slight substitutions. Amelie is consumed with the war and pictures herself as a self-sacrificing, brilliant hero, until the day Elena arrives. Elena is a beautiful, indifferent Italian girl with whom Amelie is immediately transfixed. Amelie makes it her life's work to break Elena's indifference and, therefore, earn her love.

This is a brilliant, engrossing little book that portrays the self-centered, omniscient bliss of childhood in the setting of Communist China. China is not so much a driving force or a character in itself as a spectre in the background, tainting all of the narrator's experiences ever so slightly. Descriptions are passionate and vibrant, and the narrator embodies childhood perfectly: idealistic but without pretense or illusion, and comfortable in the belief that their little world is all that matters.

I was fascinated by this book, and loved everything from the narrator's humorous descriptions of her exploits to the unrestrained emotion and nostalgia the author so deftly maintains throughout.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars knights on horseback in a city of electric fans 25 Mar 2004
By Patience Blythe - Published on Amazon.com
Do you remember what it was like to be a child in a land of childish grown ups? When all concerns were life or death, and love was, literally, hearbreaking? Nothbomb's "Loving Sabotage" goes into the world of a seven year old girl living in Peking with her diplomat parents. Her experiences of world war with the germans, secret weapons, and her love affair with the six year old femme fatale Elena will make you laugh and remember the serious side of childhood. (wink!) This book is a quick read and Nothbomb's style is witty and delicious. Anyone who felt their childhood was a series of horrors, disappointments, battles, with the occasional upper hand will adore this book and the author herself.
5.0 out of 5 stars A sweet story. A pleasure to read. 5 Jun 2010
By Annie in wonderland - Published on Amazon.com
A very sweet and funny way to approach China from the perspective of a very smart girl.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Monstrous children lost in a jungle 6 July 2009
By L. bartsch - Published on Amazon.com
After reading Tokyo Fiance by the same author I was disappointed in this book. Not only the writing is choppy but the story does not really interest me, nor do the characters leave a lasting impression. There's nothing there to move you and although the children in this book are just as monstrous as the ones in Lord of the Flies the writing falls much shorter in comparison.
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