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3.0 out of 5 stars32
3.0 out of 5 stars
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on 11 July 2010
This book is not just drivel, but sexist, racist drivel. According to Mr. Parsons the vast majority of young Chinese women are either whores or factory workers...sometimes both! Has he ever bothered to go to a Chinese university, or any other good university across the world for that matter and observed the plethora of intelligent and ambitious young Chinese girls gaining honours degrees.
Please correct me if I'm wrong here but I always thought Shanghai was rather larger than the village I grew up in (Newton Solney - population 700). The reason I ask is because apparently no matter where you go in Shanghai you bump into the small handful of people you know...amazing!! Although not quite as amazing as being able to find your way back to a shack on a hillside in the middle of a typhoon which you have visited just once, c'mon Tony, I've been to Yangshou and that is way beyond unlikely. I was half expecting our 'hero' to get home to find he'd scooped the jackpot in the Euro Millions and the National Lottery both in the same week!!
I always take my books down to the British Heart Foundation bookshop after I've read them, not just to support a good cause but also because I love to read and encourage others to do likewise. I binned this nasty little piece of work so as not to inflict it on any other poor soul...it really is that bad.
Unfortunately the Amazon website wouldn't allow me give it 0 stars as I wanted to
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on 5 October 2008
I found the contemporary China angle fascinating and as it was a long time since I had read his other books, the characters were fresh. In the light of recent news about infected baby milk and having watched the glitze of the Olympics, it was very interesting to get to the heart of the Chinese people. Life is cheap when there are so many lives in one place and with very little spiritual underpinning of society, the goal is always profit at the sacrifice of feelings.

The family is central again in his novel but the Chinese family relations make for an interesting contrast. His father and their relationship is juxtaposed with the Chinese mistress and her father. Having lived abroad, I really related to the pull of the elderly relatives back at home and the innocence of those newly arrived compared to those who have lived in such an environment for some time.

Not a book to make you feel comfortable, either with the Western influence on Chinese society or the inner workings of the heart.
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on 12 April 2011
I've always been a fan of Tony Parson's writing, and My Favourite Wife has been the only disappointment so far. Other reviews have covered several flaws, but here's my take on it:

The "feel" of Shanghai is great and though I've never been there before, having visited Hong Kong I got a real sense of authenticity about his writing. You can almost smell Shanghai through this book, but the problem is - as someone else mentioned in their review - it appears Parsons forgot about the human story.

Much of what happens is predictable and doesn't make sense. I found myself growing more and more irritated with the central character, because he's just not likeable, neither are almost any of the other characters in the book. It's a simple story that's really drawn out (far too much in my opinion), complete with the obligatory family death, the conflict of conscience in a (basically) unethical job, all neatly wrapped up in "doing the right thing" finale.

Overall I found this to be quite readable, however it's predictable, it's not at all funny, and it's actually quite depressing with a final act which doesn't really satisfy (and don't get me started on the flood section...I thought I'd just jumped into another book, it was so jarring and contrived).
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on 10 June 2009
Reading the synopsis, I thought this might be an interesting book to read.
However, the more I read, the more I was reminded of the film 'The world of Suzie Wong' - her name was also mentioned in this book.
There are just too many parallels, like: Suzie Wong has a child the main male character knows nothing about until much later - JinJin Li has a child Bill only finds out about later, and there is even a 'plain Jane', who Parsons describes as 'ugly' girl in there that knits all the time - just like in the 'Suzie Wong' film, where there is also a bookish-looking girl that knits forever.

And it can't be coincidence that the main character of this book - Bill Holden - just so happen to be the name of the main actor in the 'Suzy Wong' film - William (Bill) Holden.

The more I read, the more I thought that this was just a modernised and updated copy of the 1960 film 'The World of Suzie Wong', and not even a very good one.
One thing is for sure, after reading this story, I don't ever want to live in Shanghai!
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I like Tony Parsons. He writes about the differences between men and women in a tender way, exposing the frailty and the strength of men. Setting his territory in Shanghai gives this added bite, as not only do the sexes sometimes struggle to understand each other, exploiting each other sometimes wilfully, sometimes inadvertently, but also there is the clash between the West and the East, between old China and new China. I'm surprised by the 'unlikeable central character' reviews, and also those reviews which were negative about Jin Jin Li and what on earth drew the central characters together. That's the point, really. Love (and indeed lust) are often impossible to understand. In fact, probably most of the time we wonder 'what on earth does he/she see in her/him' 'the heart has its reasons which reason knows not of'

Parsons managed to make me understand, feel sorry for, and find it hard to condemn Bill, Jin Jin Li or Shane. The characters I couldn't feel for were the out and out business men, who seemed to live in a world only of reason; lacking heart at all they would never have fallen in love with such devastation. Sure, they would have cheated on their wives, as Bill also did, but the Chinese women would remain just commodities, and the cheating would be unlikely to cause the cheater moral pain.

Parsons writes from a place of great tenderness and understanding of how even the best of us make great mistakes
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on 20 October 2009
Having observed the couples who had muddled along in search of love and fulfilment in Shanghai, Mr Persons gave the vivid descriptions of the couples who married and set up the family life, despite having complicated histories and backgrounds, which had led them have even more disastrous and miserable life, in coupled with a series of dilemmas of modern life in urban cities. Those couples cannot help having obsessive mind of feeling jealousy, resentment, and injustice of the partner's current and previous relationships, it has given despondent, insecure, unpleasant atmosphere to their daughters. As a Western origin, it is impossible to disregard the fact that the majority of the Chinese people have never been freer, happier, and will be even given the freedom of express their true feelings. China's industry and economy have developed at incredible speed, living in big cities like Shanghai or Hong Kong conveys the world of the continuous industrious revolutions happening in the 21st century, and amazingly it doesn't seem to be ending. By the same token, four in five Chinese people suffer the poverty and great discomfort and threat of their life caused by corruption and pollution on an unimaginable scale, and the Communist government has not still started solving the problems.

All in all, it's a very entertaining love story of several couples who live in a fast moving and very problematic society.
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on 18 June 2009
The story has been told so many times for it to be a cliché - a successful man with a beautiful wife and adorable child, the envy of everyone, somehow manages to get involved with another woman...

Here the English family are relocated to burgeoning Shanghai, a move which offers Bill a short-track to becoming a legal partner. And the opportunities don't end there - the work hard, play hard atmosphere is all too infectious. The result is an emotional roller-coaster - confusion, excitement, passion, regret, anger and sorrow. The strangeness of the location only adds to the intensity.

To me the book contained a rather simplified view of China which is not totally convincing - but to be fair we are dealing with someone who just got off the plane to do a job... it just about works. The weakest point has to be the speeches on the dilemmas facing modern China - however articulate lawyers are I can't imagine anyone coming out with such pronouncements over a few drinks.

Where I found Parsons at his best was dealing with human nature and relationships - by pushing them to their limits we get to see just what a marriage and a family are made of.

Yes, the story is as old as the hills and it doesn't go anywhere new. Still, it is readable and enjoyable, expect to have your heart-strings tugged at!
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on 16 February 2011
This book is sexist, racist drivel. I read it in one day to get it over with, and am now very glad to have Tony Parson's authorial voice out of my head. Similar themes have come up in his other books, and if Tony Parsons is anything like his male protagonist, and I suspect he is, I'm very glad I'm not married to him! Seriously, he did show some talent in his earler books, but this book is dreadful. The Shanghai stuff was interesting, but charcterisation and plot were sadly lacking. Avoid.
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on 2 August 2011
I agree, it's not the most well-written book - I found myself often looking back on previous pages to see if I had missed a 'link' to explain the point the characters were now at, and at some points it was embarrassingly implausible (finding Jinjin at her father's). I do not generally enjoy Tony Parsons books, this was a last-minute grab from the library, but I was amazed by how moved I was by the love story. Yes, you never really understand why he falls for Jinjin and gambles everything but to me that's what felt very real about it - the awful heartbreak that can result from people acting on their feelings without reflection, and the obsessiveness of a new love when somebody is lonely and lost.
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on 10 April 2008
I bought and read this book whilst stuck in transit at Heathrow for 7 hours (sound familiar?) having just arrived back from Shanghai.
It is a very easy read and, were it not for my being able to relate to the Shanghai setting, I would have given it fewer stars.
The plot is simple and predictable; far behind Tony Parsons' best work. However, he is absolutely spot on in his evocation of present day expat Shanghai. For this reason, I recommend it as essential reading for anyone (regardless of their marital status!) who is going to spend time in Shanghai or elsewhere in mainland China.
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