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Shanghai Baby [Paperback]

Zhou Wei Hui
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
Price: 6.75 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

20 Feb 2003
Coco is a Shanghai cafe waitress, full of enthusiasm for life. She falls in love with a young man, Tian Tian, for whom she feels tenderness and love but who is reclusive and impotent. Despite her parents' objections, she moves in with him. But then she meets Mark, a dashing businessman.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Robinson Publishing; New Ed edition (20 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841196843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841196848
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 392,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Most of the Chinese novels with which Westerners are familiar describe people living under an oppressive regime that has a stranglehold on every aspect of daily life. But in Wei Hui's engaging semi-autobiographical novel of a young middle-class woman's struggle with love, lust and her understanding of the world, the state is very much in the background - ironically, considering that the novel was banned in China for its frankness about modern life. The main plot is fairly simple. Coco, the heroine, is a college drop-out who dreams of becoming a writer. She lives with Tian Tian, an unemployed, impotent drug addict. Needing more than the gentle love Tian Tian can give her, Coco embarks on a torrid affair with a married German. Wei Hui writes openly about the heroine's sexual desires and love life, experimentation with drugs and fascination with Western culture - especially youth culture - and perfectly captures the high of being young, beautiful and hip. Wei Hui is clearly a talented writer, and some of the novel's poetic passages and the evocation of Shanghai as a vibrant city are beautifully done, although occasionally the quality of the writing flags, possibly the fault of the translation. This is a fresh, modern, female perspective from mainland China, and a fascinating expose of a culture in transition. --Kirkus UK

About the Author

Wei Hui lives in Shanghai and is a graduate of the prestigious Fudan University. She is 27. This is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Translator ! 16 Oct 2006
By Muj
I read Shanghai Baby in both English translated version and the original Chinese version.

I shall not repeat the storyline here, as this book has been widely publicized during the past 6 years.

I simply recommend EVERYONE to buy this English translated version of Shanghai Baby. If you love beauty and elegance of words, then, you have more than plenty here in this book.

The translator, Bruce Humes turned the otherwise coarse crude shallow original Chinese version of Shanghai Baby into a new-born book of a poetically sad tragedy, which could have happened in any human society, be it Communist or Democratic, be it in the Orient or in the West.

This is to say, if you could put up with Coco, the female main protagonist (the author herself), her extremely over-sized ego, and her unfathomable huge materialistic appetite for the Western label luxury goods.

I would give this English translated version of Shanghai Baby 5 stars in rating, and for the original Chinese version, zero star.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply beautifull, yet complex 3 Mar 2007
By elysha
personaly, i found this book amazing, her language is unbelievably beautiful. maybe a hard read for people with a short atention span as she writes about everything she sees with such detail,but in her minds eye, which is what makes it so beautifull, along with that the storyline is interesting, not full of excitment but i personly found it exciting in its own way. its not a fairytale with a happy ending, its a truthly and quite disasterouse expression of someones life. one word to describe it would be beautiful, as iv said 3-4 times now, so you get the hint. i recemend it greatly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It felt contrived 21 Aug 2012
This novel seemed an appropriate choice to follow on after my last read My Favourite Wife as it is also set in Shanghai and has a surprisingly similar theme, except this time seen from a Chinese girl's point of view. Causing something of a stir when it was first published in China it has been translated into English by Bruce Humes, this autobiographical novel does feel contrived, but this may be just caused by the difficulties in translating. If I had not already a little understanding of the lifestyle of a concubine I am sure I would have found this novel even harder to read than I did. I found it very interesting to compare with the last novel as the same sort of situations arose, the background of Shanghai was familiar and the descriptions of the city bring it alive. A female perspective about a society that is still undergoing great changes. Coco our heroine was not a character I took to as she came across as extremely egotistical.

The storyline is very simple, the protagonist Coco as she calls herself, has despite not completing her education dreams of becoming a writer. She lives with her boyfriend Tian, Tain, a strange young man, unemployed, a drug addict and unable to consummate their sexual relationship. It is no surprise really then that not satisfied with the platonic love he provides that she has a fervent affair with Mark, a married German. Why an earth did her boyfriend put up with this behaviour when it seemed so obvious to us the reader that she was still with him thanks to a personal allowance he had, a relationship of convenience. The love triangle created is hopeless with Tian Tian sinking fast from his drug abuse and Mark has a wife and daughter to consider. This young Asian woman seems to want both love and sex but sadly not necessarily from the same man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Genius metafiction or lazy and boring? 28 Mar 2010
There are many reasons to mock Shanghai Baby - the irritatingly self-obsessed and clearly autobiographical protagonist, the clumsy translation, the unsexy sex scenes. But the most eye-rollingly awful thing about the book is that it exists in a world where everyone cares about your novel. That is, all the characters care deeply about the protagonist's novel, and as the protagonist is clearly Wei Hui, I can only assume that everyone in her real life cared deeply about this novel as she was writing it.

Perhaps the other characters in the novel have fascinating stories. Perhaps they breed exotic birds or practice martial arts; as readers we don't know, because protagonist Coco is too self-obsessed to make more than a passing mention to the other people in her life. Every character exists only to support and inspire Coco's writing. Her boyfriend Tian Tian encourages her to quit her waitressing job so that she can live in his house and write her novel full-time. Tian Tian does not have a job or dreams or ambitions of his own, because he exists only to help Coco write. Tian Tian spends his days cooking dinner for Coco, clearing up after Coco, and ensuring the house is kept quiet and stress-free for Coco; all so that she can write.

Everyone Coco meets seems to be deeply impressed that she published a book of short stories that no one has read. I have also published several short stories that very few people have read, but this does not seem to endear me to strangers; probably because I don't choose to open conversations with this snippet of information. Coco does not need to worry about this because whenever she is introduced to a stranger, someone conveniently informs the stranger that Coco is a writer.
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