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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me speechless., 20 Mar 2011
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.
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