2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Astonishingly Hauntingly Excellent,
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.
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!