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Old Town [Kindle Edition]

Lin Zhe , George A. Fowler
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Lin Zhe, one of China’s most prolific writers, paints an unforgettable picture of an ordinary family caught up in the maelstrom that was China's most recent century. Her narrative ranges across the entire length of China, to California and back again, to the battlefields of the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance and the brutal “struggle" sessions of the Cultural Revolution. But it always returns to this family's home in Old Town, that archetypical, old-fashioned, and vanishing place steeped in the traditions of South China. Ms. Lin examines the inner strength that sustains people's lives in their darkest hours, when religious and political faith falter. And yet, a vein of irony and droll humor runs through this powerful story. Lin Zhe's novel may be understood as a love story, memoir, history, or allegory. For the non-Chinese reader it provides a rare and moving insight into Chinese lives in a century of fearsome upheaval. This book was originally published under the title Riddles of Belief...and Love - A Story.

Product Description

About the Author

Lin Zhe (pen name of Zhang Yonghong) was born in 1956 of Han Chinese parents then serving in the People’s Liberation Army in Kashi (Kashgar), a small frontier city in what is now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. After graduating from the Chinese Language and Literature Department of Fudan University in 1980, she worked as a reporter and editor for Women of China Magazine in Beijing. She has written fourteen novels that focus on women’s issues relating to marriage and personal and family life, as well as three TV drama series.

George A. Fowler lived and traveled widely in the Asia Pacific region for over 30 years, first as a Marine, then as a student of Chinese and Malay, and finally for 23 years as a commercial banker. He has most recently translated Marah Rusli's classic Indonesian Malay novel Sitti Nurbaya, which will soon be published by Lontar in Jakarta.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 963 KB
  • Print Length: 706 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1611090075
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossingEnglish (25 Jan. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0041KLFOA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #145,342 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and timely 25 May 2012
By Sienna
I'm surprised there aren't more reviews of this book, and I encourage anyone with an interest in China and the tumultuous history of its last 100 years to grab this book and settle down. The writing is great- not particularly poetic, it's just great story telling about an incredible saga of an extended family that begins with Guomindang and follows through the rise of Communism, the Cultural Revolution down to the present day. I have been to China and have worked with people there - some of them closely -- and found it interesting that they were not really that interested in talking about their recent history or what their parents had been through. And in reading this book I begin to understand why. This is such an extraordinary history that it would be very hard to relate it to anyone who had not lived through it. As I read this, though, I really began to appreciated what Lin Zhe was attempting to do here -- to make that history come alive for that absent audience. And she does. The gentleness of Dr Lin and the strength of Second Sister are traits to admire in a universal sense and the heartbreak of all that they go through is so touching that at times I had to stop reading. The modern story is such an extraordinary contrast to the rest of the family story that you really do get the sense of the unbelievable whirlwind of change that China has been through. I loved this book. It's long, but for me it was a wonderful companion on a 10-hour journey. On a practical level, I would not recommend reading it on Kindle (as I did) because there are too many times when I wanted to go back to an earlier section to reaquaint myself with names and Kindle is fiddly and irritating unless you are happy to read straight through non-stop (well, either that or I'm just not savvy navigating my Kindle!).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book, but... 11 Jun. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very long book, which hops from one time period to the next, so you have to pay close attention. Most of the main characters are not named as such, but described according to their family relationship, ie Second Sister, Ninth Brother, etc - but I found this helpful rather than confusing. There were a few minor characters I lost track of and with Kindle it is difficult to go back to the list of characters to check, but on reading further it soon became clear who they were.

In my humble opinion, this book could have been better edited as to length, and I found the translation annoying in its clumsiness and odd turn of phrase that broke my immersion in this hugely satisfying family saga.

I presume that when translating, a rough and literal draft would be made into the relevant language (in this case English), then another draft into colloquial English, and then finally, a polished version, which would then be submitted for publication. Maybe it was just the Kindle edition, but I felt that the final two stages had been omitted.

That being said, however, this book I found I could pick up even in a 5-minute gap and be totally subsumed into the story, it was so engrossing.

If the two points mentioned above had been addressed, I would have happily given it a full 5 stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 12 Jun. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most difficult to read books I have struggled with for a long time. The stories are told in a series of reminiscences by the grand-daughter of the two main characters, Ninth Son and Second Daughter. Things skip across the decades and amongst other family members and it is not always easy to follow the track of the stories.
However it is a rich tapestry of a very unfamiliar era, following China from the end of empire to current day. What desperately hard lives ordinary people's were. How much of a knife-edge their existence balanced on.
I am glad I persevered with this book. I would have given it five stars if it had been easier to follow though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dont be put off by reviews. 10 Feb. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Yes - it's long, but frankly not every book is meant to be read in a weekend. Yes, it does switch between time frames but most readers have the intelligence to accommodate this. What it really does is portray to a Western audience exactly what the changes in China have meant to the people there in a very personal way and the time shifts emphasise how the past impacts on the present. I travelled through China in 2007 and was fascinated but people's response to the Cultural Revolution and realised I knew nothing at all as to how that had really affected folks there. I do now. Wonderful stuff.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A grim and tortuous read 17 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
If this is a true depiction of past life in China then I have the utmost admiration and sympathy for its people.

A number of the characters drew me in, but I found the writing style confusing and parts of the narrative overly drawn out.

I always approach a book with optimism and have never failed to finish a book that I have started. At 80+ per cent completion I ran out of desire, but intend to return later.

Could I honestly recommend it to anyone else? No!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old Town 25 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was good at times, but jumped all over the place, and was too long, I got fed up with it half way through.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old Town 24 Jun. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this epic tale of Chinese life through various stages in history. I liked following the main family and associated characters along their own personal journeys. I became involved in everything that was going on looked forward to finding out what happened next.
Well written.
Disappointing conclusion but predictable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 28 days ago by emveja
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Confusing at times.... however was an interesting read with reference to Chinese ways !!!
Recommend ..... not sure ..... have read worse
Published 8 months ago by lummers
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read
Published 8 months ago by JUDY
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting read.
Published 11 months ago by Jaqs 153
2.0 out of 5 stars Plodding
Couldn't finish it, deadly dull and uninspiring. I have read many books set in China, both historically and modern, but didn't like this.
Published 11 months ago by Gareth Lukey
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure of this..
I found it difficult engaging with the narrative in this book. Possibly because it was translated, the characters seemed rather distant to me. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. C. M. Adlam
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard work.
I am disappointed in this book. there was no flow. it could have been more interesting and harder to put down if not so disjointed.
Published 16 months ago by xxxx
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
After the first chapter I thought I don't like this bookbut I am so glad I stuck with it The history and a look at how family life was in China at the time of her grand parents is... Read more
Published 17 months ago by dawn
1.0 out of 5 stars china
not well written and confusing. couldn't finish it. all about the present day commercialism and materialism but not connecting well with her youth
Published 17 months ago by john architect
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
started the book with no great expectations but from the first it seduced me and i really cared how the family came through the great massive trials that china has gone through in... Read more
Published 17 months ago by adenjack
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