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Shanghai Baby Hardcover – 28 Aug 2001
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"The Times (London) A steamy Chinese novel in the Western style about life in contemporary China, condemned for exposing subjects that are completely taboo in modern Chinese literature.
A story of love and betrayal - banned in China.... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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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.
Because 'Shanghai Baby' is a wonderful novel. Get away from the fact that it was banned and burned in China, and you can settle down to what is a really satisfying read, a beautifully written book.
Where the book suffers slightly is an element of character overload. The main characters, Coco and Tian Tian are fine, and Coco's Western lover Mark is okay too.
There does not seem to be much character depth in anyone else except dope-happy Tian Tian, whose pain you really feel. As for Coco, she seems like an over sexed individual, who really is with Mark just as a novelty, and maybe that says something pretty contraversial about mixed race relationships.
The story is written at a really good pace, and there is plenty here to keep pages being turned. It is sexually charged, but perhaps still is'nt as sexually explicit as it could have been.
Still, Wei Hui is young, and will probably have more exciting things to write as she gets older. As an insight into Shanghai, it does not offer much, but as an insight in to the modern Chinese woman's mind, it proves very sharp indeed. I found myself very moved by the end of this book, and few books can really claim to do this and mean it. In that respect alone, Shanghai baby is outstanding, and should be read again and again.
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.
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.
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...
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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