1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2010
Mian Mian earned herself a little controversy in Chiana as a result of this book, and as a result it has been translated for the West as an example of modern lively writing.
There is a lot of life in this book, and in the characters; they are wild and mostly believable, fleshed out and mysterious. The main character comments beautifully at times on how these people's tangled lives are changing them.
Proficient as the writing is, I had a problem with this book. I found some of it unconvincing, particularly the sections on heroin abuse. Saying "this person took heroin a lot and now he can't stop taking it" is the gist of a good portion of the story. It's fairly flat and actually seems quite naive; it surprised me to find that the author has or may have had a lot of experience in the matter. In that case, it's not just poor imagination, but instead a poor translation of experience to written word.
The problem is this: Mian Mian is a young, female writer in China writing about a yougn, female writer in China. It's lazy and, as a result, self-indulgent at the expense of the novel. A novel has a structure but life tends not to; that is why this book falls on its face a few chapter in, because it's going nowhere in that meandering way that life goes nowhere during adolescence. The only "drive" the story has is the new tangle of emotions and a glut of new (mostly unpleasant) experiences. The story itself doesn't actually go anywhere - it moves forward chronologically and that's it. A girl has a bunch of experiences that a lot of young people have in these times. This pappy writing is so much like a badly plotted story that you think, "Oh god, I bet this is just a big diary". The "surprise" a few hundred pages later that the protagonist is Mian Mian herself is a big let-down.
Either this is an awful attempt at structureless, bloated, post-modernist writing - or it's a naive exercise in egotism obtaining modest fame through "attractive" overdoses of sex, drugs and music. Although heart-felt, it's messy and unsatisfying. The writing is characteristic of Eastern style, but with little flair and at times overwritten for its bland content.
Not a good example of Eastern writing or, indeed, of a good book.
2 / 10
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"