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3.7 out of 5 stars19
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 25 May 2012
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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on 11 June 2013
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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on 12 June 2013
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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on 10 February 2014
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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on 24 June 2013
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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on 16 June 2014
I found it difficult engaging with the narrative in this book. Possibly because it was translated, the characters seemed rather distant to me. I haven't finished it as it wasn't compelling enough for my reading interest.
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on 24 December 2013
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 our life time.... really recommend... makes your heart ache at the mindlessness of it all.......
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on 17 December 2013
I studied this era in Chinese History a number of years ago and found it fascinating. This book and translation has not disappointed, the story flows and is incredibly readable. I would love to read more by this author.
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on 7 January 2014
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 a revelation A good read
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on 25 May 2013
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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