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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger on a train
I once sat next to a girl on a long-distrance train who was reading the final volume of 'The story of the stone'. As she finished the last page she sighed and said, to nobody in particular, 'I can't believe it's finished...I've lived with these people for so long and now it's all over. I'll just have to start it again...' I decided then that I must read the book and have...
Published on 22 Dec. 2003

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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not that which I had expected
I was rather taken in by other reviews. This book is very difficult to "get into" and the extensive preamble, really intended for more scholarly minds than mine, is very off-putting. I have put the book away for the time being , probably a better read on cold winter nights
Published on 29 Sept. 2009 by P. STACE


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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger on a train, 22 Dec. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I once sat next to a girl on a long-distrance train who was reading the final volume of 'The story of the stone'. As she finished the last page she sighed and said, to nobody in particular, 'I can't believe it's finished...I've lived with these people for so long and now it's all over. I'll just have to start it again...' I decided then that I must read the book and have now got to volume 4. Even now, I know that my feelings when I get to the end of volume 5 will be much the same as those of the girl on the train. This is total involvement with a lost culture and will teach you more about China of the period than many a history book. Read it. Live it. Love these exasperating characters. Then start all over again....
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but requires initial patience, 15 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This is the first volume of a 5 volume series, and does not stand alone. If you read it, and enjoy it, be prepared to read the other four volumes. The story is difficult to begin with, not for lack of interest, but because of the complexity of Chinese names for the western reader. The book is provided with a useful list of characters for each volume, and after referring to this during the first half the first volume, all becomes clearer for the remainder of the book.
The story itself is a fascinating picture of life in 18th century China, and portrays the development of a young boy who has otherworldly origins. The western reader needs to view dispassionately the Buddhist theme which pervades the novel, but when read with an open mind, the philosophy underlying the novel is both charming and practical (in its own way).
I found the book addictive, though it has to be said that others of my acquaintance found it too difficult to cope with, and abandoned the story before the end of the first volume. If you persevere, it forms a wonderful introduction to classical Chinese literature, and those similarly addicted will find it leads into many other books of Chinese prose and poetry.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long, absobing, and rich novel, 8 Feb. 2002
By 
G. Oldham - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
A superb, brilliant, moving, charming and very long novel from late 18th century China. Extremely readably translated by David Hawkes (vols 1-3) and John Minford (vols 4 & 5). There is much that is rewarding in the novel: the insight into the intimate domestic life of a Chinese family, the way the three traditions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism weave together in social and personal life; the very likeable characters - especially Bao-yu. It took me four months to read it (I read the short and wonderful Analects of Confucius at the same time too) but it is a book that goes at a leisurely pace anyway. Some while after completing the novel I sat down and wrote a list of all the characters I could remember from it. I wrote down 60 names (and that is despite not knowing any Chinese at all)! It was just living with these characters for such a time that had made them memorable and dear to me.
For me the novel is from a different culture and for all readers it is from a different century. These things makes it less than an easy read at first, but make it all the more rewarding and very, very much worth sticking with to the end.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous book - read it fast.., 24 Feb. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Xueqin’s tale of life behind the doors of the Jia mansion is a wonderful picture of eighteenth-century China and a hugely engaging narrative. Bao-yu is the spoilt and cheeky boy hero who can’t resist a pretty face, and Dai-yu is the independent and sensitive heroine (it’s hard not to recall characters in English fiction from the same period such as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and Richardson’s Clarissa). He loves her but, as she is a poorer relation, his family would not permit their match. The section at the end of Volume 4 that charts the climax of their relationship is very moving.
Xueqin peoples his text with gripping characters: the fabulously harsh domestic manager Xi-feng, clever maid Patience, refined but out of touch Lady Wang, craven Huan, hot-tempered Jia Zhang and the perennially dissatisfied concubines. The altercations between Bao-yu’s shrewd maids are fun.
I stayed up all night to finish Volume 3 and then couldn't put down Volume 4 during the following day. Although such an approach was perhaps a little addictive, I feel that it is worth reading the book as quickly as possible. The longer you wait between volumes, the more the relationships between characters - and the significance of such relationships - slip from your mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly Hauntingly Excellent, 14 May 2013
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Years ago, I found this book as a yellowing paperback in my local library. It had been on the shelves for years and never borrowed. I borrowed the first volume out of casual interest at the start of a long summer vac from university and lay in the garden reading it. I was completely hooked. Yes, it started off a bit hard to read - strange names were at first unmemorable and it was hard to recall who everyone was (but I was used to that from reading Russian novels), people had odd behaviours and did bizarre things in weird unfamiliar homes, the plot described difficult to imagine situations, invoked unfamiliar Buddhist mysticism, and it was all very disorientating. I felt I was in C18th China - plucked up and flung down in another world. Despite the initial strangeness (or because of it) I found the story a real page turner and I raced through volume one and went back for more. The more I read, the more enchanted I felt. I was fascinated. I came to the end and I was stunned. I did not want it to end. In fact, I had to start reading it again from the start. It is one of those books which you can't put down and even when the writing stops, the story (and its characters) lives on.

Looking back years later, I wonder what influence this book had on my life. For one thing, I am now a Buddhist and for another, I have read a great deal of Chinese literature and poetry and histories. Never mind, I like coming back to this version of this novel. It is a wonderful genuine classic of world literature which should be read by anyone who calls himself/herself 'cultured' at least once. And this is a very good translation - witty, urbane, entertaining. The translator is quite as wonderful as the original author.

Warmly recommended!

Peevish after note: I would like this as an eBook - five fat volumes is a lot to lug around and when it is going to be read and re-read so much that it would destroy a paper book, I feel it would clearly be more convenient to own as a digital book. Can anyone explain why volumes two, four and five are available as kindle editions but volumes one and three are not? Whose bright idea was that?!? I feel quite vexed. I stamp my pixie foot. I crinkle my delicate moth's wing brow. My dinky white jade hair ornaments tremble. I take my delicate porcelain tea bowl and I fling it on the floor. It smashes. I pout. I don't care! I am in a temper and I don't care who knows it. I fling myself weeping onto my fragrant bed. Something tells me a man of my age should pull himself together but no, I will give myself over to the emotion of the moment. So there!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, 1 July 2014
By 
Alan the Kaz (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Out of China's “Four Great Classical Novels”, 'Dream of the Red Chamber' (printed under an earlier, less famous name, 'The Story of the Stone', for this renowned Penguin Classics edition) was the one I was least interested in reading, as well as the one I knew the least about. But, for various reasons, it ended up being the first of the Four Great Novels that I've now started to read (this 525 page book is merely the first of five volumes reprinting this enormous novel), and I'm so glad that I did!

As I'm currently formally studying Mandarin, I'm also trying to teach myself more about Chinese culture and history, and I found that I learnt far more about 18th century China from reading this novel than I ever would have read in a textbook. This book actually strikes me somewhat as a Chinese version of 'Downton Abbey', presenting an idealised world of Chinese aristocracy, where everything is perfect and the servants are treated so well that you wish you were one yourself (the main difference between this and 'Downton Abbey' being that, according to this book's introduction, at least, the “idealised” picture presented in here, where even the servants are treated well, is actually how it was!).

The only drawbacks for this almost perfect book are that, firstly, the sheer amount of Chinese names to remember makes it difficult to follow. The list of characters and family trees printed at the back are certainly useful, but can only help so much. Also, this doesn't really seem to be a typical novel with a “beginning”, “middle” and “end”, as such. Rather, it seems to be a series of inter-connected episodes, some of which are quite boring and overly descriptive (which is probably great for people who want to learn more about the society). Once the “fall” of the family, alluded to throughout this volume, finally happens, that might change though. But, really, this is an extremely enjoyable book, which anybody interested in classic literature, and especially those with an interest in traditional Chinese culture, must read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming book, 17 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I thought I'd sample some Oriental literature and decided to dive into this epic family saga. Having read this first volume and the second volume, I am very happy with my purchase.

It is tough to familiarise yourself with all the different characters in the book, but very soon you realise that the abundance of people within this one family household is one of the delights of the story. There's always something going on, be it the concerns of the aged Grandmother Jia, the loveable oddities of Bao Yu, or the frettings of the vast array of maids.

Don't expect anything dramatic to happen every twenty pages otherwise you'll be disappointed. This novel moves very slowly. But it is meant to be realistic and this again is part of the charm. Through reading its pages you learn a lot about Chinese culture of that time and this is exciting in its own way.

I read the first volume and fell in love with the characters so much that I could not conceive of not carrying on with the remaining four volumes. I think that is a testament to how good the book is and, indeed, the translation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great translation of a literary masterpiece, 22 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I can't read Chinese, but the literary quality of this translation is very high, and I'm glad to see the work has found a worthy translator. Prose is rendered as prose and verse is rendered as verse, often with rhyme.

The story takes a while to get into and there are a lot of characters, but they are realistically portrayed and it isn't too hard to tell them apart (remembering Chinese names might take the Western reader a while at first!). I have not read the succeeding volumes yet, but the first volume alone is simply beautiful - enchanting descriptions, likeable and realistic characters, lots of historical detail about aristocratic life in the period (without overwhelming or obscuring the story), mystical undertones from Buddhism and Daoism which pregnate the story with extra levels of meaning...

I found this bolume surprisingly easy to get through. If you are not put off by the length of the entire work, I highly recommend it. A masterpiece of world literature, rendered by a gifted translator.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Why not available on Kindle?, 4 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I read this years ago when it first came out in Penguin and loved it. I would like to read it again on my Kindle but, unless I am missing something, it seems that vols 1 and 3 are not available whereas 2,4 and 5 are. Very strange. Has anyone any idea why this is so?
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5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable funny insight into a world that no-longer exists, 14 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
enjoyable funny insight into a world that no-longer exists , but every character recognizable in their flaws and failings and all the more loveable for that fact
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