Customer Reviews


13 Reviews
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw and powerful
This is definitely an author to watch - she writes in a sparse style that is both raw and powerful. Her characters are varied and strong, interacting with one another in constantly interconnecting circles. The build-up of the narrative was excellent, leading us inexorably to the final denouement.

The book is set in 1979, after the death of Mao. It is based...
Published on 17 Sep 2009 by DubaiReader

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing
I have to say I was quite dissapointed by this book. Maybe it was because there were too many characters and I just couldn't get into it. I didn't really like the 'idiot' boy - I didn't understand his character at all, and the story did seem to focus too much on him, while other charcters were much more interesting. Maybe it was his innocence? I felt it really didn't...
Published on 13 Mar 2011 by Elimb


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw and powerful, 17 Sep 2009
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
This is definitely an author to watch - she writes in a sparse style that is both raw and powerful. Her characters are varied and strong, interacting with one another in constantly interconnecting circles. The build-up of the narrative was excellent, leading us inexorably to the final denouement.

The book is set in 1979, after the death of Mao. It is based around a factual event - the denunciation and execution of 28 year old Gu-Shan, who has been accused of counterrevolutionary activity and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment followed by death. This event affected many people in the town of Muddy River - from Shan's parents through to the radio announcer responsible for whipping up the crowds, to a young, deformed girl who unknowingly watches while the Shan's vocal chords are cut to prevent her from speaking out. As the ripples travel further, other residents of the town become drawn in. A movement to clear Shan's name begins to build momentum and the fall-out from this has far reaching effects.

Recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly talented author, 17 Feb 2010
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
Yiyun Li's sublime collection of short stories, her debut, "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers", won more awards than most prolific authors would be chuffed to bits with for their entire output. "The Vagrants" is her first novel. It follows the interwoven lives of several outsider-type characters living in a small provincial town, following the execution of a young woman for anti-government sentiments. Rather than plop some lame, unhelpful superlative in this space, I urge you to read this magnificent, moving novel by a truly talented author.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional, illuminating book, 14 Nov 2009
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
It may seem odd to describe this book as beautifully written when it is about the execution of a young woman as a "counterrevolutionary" and the dire political consequences suffered by those who protest against the execution. This is a novel about fear and poverty and oppression, and about injustice, yet The Vagrants is perceptive, incisive, completely absorbing and, yes, beautifully written, illuminating the thoughts and motivations of simple village people who care about justice. It is written in a way that makes even the simplest and most marginalised of people of the town of Muddy River significant and worth caring about.

I was drawn in from the start. Every character in Muddy River from teacher Gu and his wife, the parents of the executed prisoner who are devastated by their daughter's disgrace, to Nini, the deformed child in a poor family who is able to find love amid the turmoil, as well as Bashi, a strange child-man who himself admits has a screw loose, are all perfectly rendered, with minute, telling details that bring out their oddness but also their humanity. However poor or downtrodden, Yiyun Li is able to convince us that these people matter.

Political oppression is a significant theme. The Vagrants is set in the 1970s, era of the Democracy Wall movement which spurred China's first student dissidents. The stirring of dissent, the courage to question the official version of events, yet the consequences of doing so is the tragedy of Muddy River. The execution is based on true events but Yiyun Li's talent lies in helping us realise that there are many towns like Muddy River throughout China. An exceptional, illuminating book and an author to watch.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me speechless., 20 Mar 2011
By 
Tommy Dooley "Tom" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
This is Yiyun Li's second book, she won the Guardian First Book Award for her debut `A Thousand Years of Good Prayers',A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and after reading this I am getting that one next. This is based in 1979 Communist China in a place called `Muddy River'.

It tells of the unfolding events around the imprisonment, torture, denouncement and ultimate execution of a young girl called Gu Shan. She actively took part in the `Cultural Revolution' with gusto and brutality before an epiphany made her see the light of day and become a free thinker or as it is termed in China `a counterrevolutionary'. Please do not think the prior sentence is a plot spoiler as all of that gives us the setting for the events in the town and how the actions of that one girl affect so many of the other inhabitants.

Li writes from the perspectives of numerous characters and in such a way that all of their idiosyncrasies come out quite naturally. She even relates the feeling of a little boy's dog, who is affectionately called Ear. They all have interesting names and the cultural divide from the West is almost impossible to breach when you read of the stoicism and home spun Confucian like wisdom and advice. Most of which is centred around the fact that life is not fair so you might as well get use to it.

Li writes with a fluidity that draws you in and wills you to carry on reading, she has a knack of dropping the bombshell when you least expect it in an almost unassuming way, much like some of Cormac McCarthy's work. However, unlike him she is not poetic, the charm comes from the people in the story and the way she relates them. One of the most satisfying and moving books I have read - highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent portrayal of the darker side of Communism, 22 Feb 2010
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
A very strong first novel which paints a vivid and often disturbing picture of life in Communist China after the Cultural Revolution. Set in a provincial town following the execution of a young woman, 'The Vagrants' follows a disparate group of characters all affected by the uprising that follows the death of the counterrevolutionary. It's a cleverly constructed, well paced and emotionally powerful story with fascinating characters. Of all the novels I've read recently set in China during the excesses of Communism, this is the one that most brings home what it is like to live under a repressive, all-powerful regime.

Yet despite the grittiness of the political and social issues underlying the story, it isn't bleak. It is full of the warmth and colour of people doing their best in difficult circumstances, of small kindnesses as well as painful betrayals. The ending worked well and I found the story arcs of many of the characters unexpected and interesting to follow. The political content of the story is never dull and never takes over, rather the political message is carried through showing the effects of the system, rather than lecturing about them.

A very good novel from an author that I'm sure we'll hear more from.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important and Great Read, 30 Sep 2009
By 
Mr. M. Murphy - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
This is a touh book in may ways, not for the faint hearted or light reading. Having said that it is a great book, eye opening at the least. If you know nothing about politics and society in China this book is going to shock you. If you think you know about the current situation in China it is still going to push your boundaries. But everyone should read this book! It is well written, haunting and will never leave you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally engaging, 20 May 2011
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
This is a wonderful and tragic novel which grips from start to finish. There is a lot of believable detail and the characters are well-developed. I read this after the author's first collection of short stories A Thousand Years of Good Prayers(most of which were excellent) and was looking forward to reading it, but was totally blown away. Excellent. A really exciting voice for modern China.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important novel about China, 5 Jan 2011
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
Any reader interested in post-Mao politics in China will find this novel engrossing. It focuses on the lives of certain residents in Muddy River after 1975. Freedom of ideas and thought have still not become part of the lives of the Chinese. One of the residents in Muddy River are Kai a beautiful young woman, married with a child who convinces herself that she can speak out for improvements in the treatment of politicals without severe consequences to herself or her family. To save themselves, her husband and his parents denounce her publically. She is sentenced to be executed. Other characters are Mr and Mrs Hua who looked for girl babies exposed after birth on mountainsides and who bring these girls up as their own much-loved daughters. The authorities remove these girls when they are in their teens leaving the two old people bereft. Nini is a 12-year old who is disfigured and disabled and who is treated as a servant by her parents and is carer to her 5 young sisters. She is finally cared for by the Huas.

This book is wonderful and there are many more characters who will make the reader hopeful for improvement in their difficult lives. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars haunting, dark, full of irony and painfully realistic, 19 Nov 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
Many books have been written about people's lives affected by the cultural revolution in communist China, but Yiyun Li's portrayals stood out for me. So often I read books by author with a strong political agenda (Wild Swan came to mind). Li's story and characters don't seem to impose too much judgements but allows the readers to decide for themselves. As a result, the characters are complex and the plot is multi-layered.

At the beginning, it's so easy to think that it's a story about how people of Muddy River rise against the tyrannical government for the execution of an innocent woman Shan, that it's a story about evil versus good. But as the story goes on, it becomes difficult to tell who is the goodie and who is the badie. You get to learn that Shan is not all that innocent, and the government official like Han is not just a cold-hearted b*****d.

As a Chinese born in post-cultural revolution era but still affected by it through the stories told by families and friends, as well as observations of the emotional trauma experienced by people growing up during CR, the stories told in the book sometimes felt a bit too close to home and haunting. Nevertheless the book's dark humour lightened up the mood at places.

In my opinion Yiyun Li is one of the most important contemporary Chinese authors today. I highly recommend this book. If you enjoy this one, check out her collection of short stories 'A thousand years of prayers' too.

I hope you will find this helpful.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating look into a hidden world, 21 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Vagrants (Paperback)
This book is written in a wonderfully understated style which belies the passion and suffering of the characters whose interconnected lives we follow.

The oppression of the communist regime makes the reader grateful for the casual freedom western countries barely notice. However, the book does raise the interesting issue of how easily influenced humans are no matter the type of government that rules over them.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Vagrants
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li (Paperback - 3 Sep 2009)
7.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews