Thursday, August 24, 2006

Missing China

Title - Lili: A Novel of Tiananmen
Author - Annie Wang

Lili is Annie Wang's first novel in English. It made me miss China, which I suppose is a bit odd seeing as I have been to China only once and for only 12 days. But China just has that effect. The culture is so different that it really sticks with you.

The novel is chock full of things that are very characteristic of China: the need to save face, the crudeness (okay, I think I've mainly encountered the crudeness in other books by Chinese authors, but they are just so frank when talking about bodily functions), the parents who are forever blaming their children and guilt-tripping them, the crowdedness of Beijing, the poverty, the tiny dwellings of the countryside, the heavy hand of the government... I could go on and on.

It is, as the title says, a novel of Tiananmen. However, in an odd sort of fashion, the climax comes at the very end of the book with the protests and the massacre. I feel like I'm spoiling the book, but you assume immediately that a novel of Tiananmen would cover that particular historical event. You don't, however, expect it to occur where it does. The shooting starts on page 305 of this 307 page book.

Actually, come to think of it, the ending really feels quite rushed. More happens in the last 30 pages than in the rest of the book. Doubled. Which leaves me feeling as though I really cannot say much more because I would ruin the ending for anyone who may be interested in reading it.

I do have one other takeaway from the novel, and that is how much I truly love the word unctuous when used to describe a person - in this case a Chinese government official who is harassing Lili. What a perfect description.

posted by Kate at 8:08 PM


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