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3.3 out of 5 stars
Shanghai Baby
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2001
A marketing sucess; but a failure as far as any other quality standard could judge. Cliched; trite; and probably banned because it was so bad. It's a shame that this kind of stuff gets so much publicity - more on the looks of the writer and the fact that it deals with Western man and Chinese woman having an affair than anything else. I got so bored i left this on the train - and i've never done that before.
There are much better books than this set in China - Please Don't Call me Human, or the Drink and Dream Teahouse (interestingly by a young English man) are much better in every respect.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2001
Wei Hui (pronounced Way-Way) is the daughter of an army officer and spent three years of her childhood living in an army-occupied temple from which monks had been expelled during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. She studied literature at the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai, China.
Wei is now dubbed 'decadent, debauched and a slave of foreign culture.' Chinese authorities banned this novel, "Shanghai Baby," in April 2000 for its sensual nature and irreverent style. Forty thousand copies of "Shanghai Baby" were publicly burned in the government's attempts to ban this young author's rise to fame. This novel is the semi-autobiographical story of Coco, a café waitress, who is full of enthusiasm and impatience for life. She meets a young man, Tian Tian, for whom she feels tenderness and love, but he is reclusive, impotent and an increasing user of drugs. Despite parental objections, Coco moves in with him, leaves her job and throws herself into writing.
Shortly afterwards she meets Mark, a married Westerner. The two are uncontrollable attracted and begin a highly charged, physical affair. Torn between her two lovers, and tormented by her deceit, her unfinished novel, and the conflicting feelings involved in both love and betrayal, Coco begins to find out who she really is.
This novel also focuses on China's present day social and sexual revolution. New voices are emerging that challenge China's current cultural generation gaps, those that divide young adults born in the 1970s and the older generation, a gap that has never been, as wide, as today. This is a beautifully written novel, by a young author from the forbidden culture.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2001
I thought I had missed something! This book left me with no real feelings about the characters. I felt void of sympathy (or anything else)for Coco. I thought the story was disjointed in places, predictable in others. Not as enjoyable as I hoped it would be.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 27 September 2003
The plot could well be based on Wei Hui's own personal experiences, but to be honest the plot, right from the outset seems really strained. Frustrated female writer, supported by useless yet loving boyfriend eventually ruins own life for a while before heading out into the deep unknown.
I bought this book mostly out of interest in China. I wanted to see what was so controversial that the book would be banned. I wanted to read a portrait of modern Shanghai before I visited the city myself. I wanted to read an interesting book on contemporary Chinese life in a modern Chinese city. I didn't really get any of that.
I could see why the book was controversial. In many places it is simply pornographic. And this pornography is not well written. It seems to suggest that every bourgeoise Shanghainese woman is a slut and most of the bourgeois Shanghainese men are layabouts with nothing better to do than spend their money on pot. Wei Hui spends so much time talking about Coco-Channel that anything interesting about Shanghai is left behind.
Does this book deal with some interesting issues? Yep. It grapples with a woman dealing with an impotent yet loving boyfriend, drug-use, affairs aplenty and relationships. But as I said before, it reads like Airport trash.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2001
Well I think I'm qualified to say it is a bad book, even worse because of the translation, it is that bad probably it will become a cult. Especially when you know every street, every place mentioned in that book, every cliched urban cool in that city. If you take the book itself as a portrait of a surperficial 'shanghai lady', well, nothing comes closer.
The quotes before every chapter are random collection of trendy reading and listening of the in-crowd in the city. From Unbearable lightness of being to Henry Miller and to... Tori Amos...
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on 24 December 2001
The educational part : it was interesting to see how the Chinese youth have adapted to western ideals and ways of life.
The rest: seemed like an extended version of a short romance/tragedy story. The author could have condensed the book into a couple of pages and published it in a magazine. There were parts missing which made the book appear 'unfinished'.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2002
semi-autobiographical, "SHANGHAI BABY" tells the poignant tale of Coco a struggling writer whose discoveries of life, love, infidelity and personal development are all set in the bustling city of Shanghai.
Leading a trendy, upbeat lifestyle in unusual places among equally unusual friends, Coco spends her time flitting between her tormented, impotent lover and a German businessman who rocks her world. Finding time in between to pen her novel; she is a dedicated writer seeking the ultimate goal-recognition of her work.
WEI HUI achieves cult-status in China with this, her first novel which caused a public outrage on its publication.
It is a descriptive account of present day China, challenging traditions and taking us on a journey almost like a travellers' guide of Shanghai.
Captivating her audience with a fresh shockable style, WEI HUI succeeds in producing a book which is both tragic and touching and well worth reading.
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on 22 July 2007
very well written, i can see why this was banned but i dont see anything too contraversial about. great story that shows us the world of a twenty something chinese girl figuring out what she whats in life and learning about life love sex etc
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2002
i couldn't believe how amazing this book was, im only 17 years old and i usually read something far more light hearted. the story is incredibly hard hitting and has left a lasting impression on me. the story is set in modern day Shanghai and tells the story of a young writer named coco, and her relationship with her impotant, drug addict boyfriend. in search of sexual satisfaction she has an affair with a married westerner named Mark. the points that Wei Hui highlights, about love, life and everything else may at first seem unconventional and quite controversial but when having deeper thoughts about these issues i, as im sure you will, was forced conclude that she was right in her thinking. the story raised many moral ideas in my head, and has given me many motto's for life. i will find it hard to believe if anyone can put this book down,as whilst it may not tell a happy tale, it tells a brutally honest one.
N/B whilst i am only 17 years old, the book can be fairly sexually explicit, and i would not recommend any parents who are anything less than completely sexually liberated to encourage their child (of under 18 years old) to read it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2001
I bought this book on my way to Shanghai to learn more about the city and the people. After reading it, I must say I am quite disappointed. The story itself is boring and uninteresting and there has been written hundreds of books like this before. The only interesting thing is probably that the author is from China and this type of book is not a common chinese book. Might be a cult book for the chinese, others should stay away from it
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