Welcome to the Maribyrnong Library Book Club

Love to read? Love sharing your ideas about books and writing? Then you've come to the right place.

This blog is an extension of our book groups which we welcome you to attend on the first Tuesday of each month.

Contact Maureen on 9688 0290 for more information.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie

I cannot even look at books set in Europe during World War 2, I’ve read too many and have no interest in reading more.  Conversely, I love reading books set during historical periods I know little about and the setting for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, China’s Cultural Revolution, is one such period.  The story's setting is important too, because this semi-autobiographical novel has a very meandering and often inconsequential plot.

The story centres on two adolescent boys, who, like many young adults of the period, come from middle-class families and have been sent to the remote countryside for re-education by the “noble” peasants.   There they meet and befriend the “Little Seamstress.”  They also come into possession of a stash of banned western novels. 

Through detailed and enjoyable tales of the boys’ adventures we see the transformative effects these western novels have on both the boys and the Little Seamstress.  I think it’s unfortunate that I read this directly after Mister Pip; another book about the transformative power of classic western literature.  While the story remains believable, the message did start to feel a little preachy.

On a final note, while I mentioned that the plot for the most part feels inconsequential, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress does have a very satisfying conclusion.  I won’t spoil it, but it was one of those rare endings that I didn’t see coming, but not only did it make sense, it helped the rest of the story make sense at the same time.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is available as a book group set from Maribyrnong Library Service.

The opinions posted here are my own and not those of Maribyrnong City Council.

Michael Lay

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