I think this is my week of banned books/authors. I started with Taslima Nasrin’s Shame which is banned in
Anyways, getting to the book now:
I knew I was going to pick this book up the minute I read the review on Natasha’s blog. The cover totally totally appealed to me… I don’t know why though. A simple pair of old shoes with quaint looking buckles. But there was something about the picture that made me feel that the book might be a good read and I wasn’t disappointed.
Balzac and the little Chinese Seamstress is a semi-autobiographical novel. Like most kids from educated middle class families, Dai was also sent to rural china for “Re-education”. This was during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I guess during the revolution, schools and colleges were shut down and any child having intellectual parents was sent to the villages to live the life of peasants and learn from them. Similarly, in the book, the narrator and his friend Luo are sent to a village near a fictional mountain called “phoenix of the sky” for re-education. There, they meet a pretty little girl – the tailor’s daughter and hence, she is called the little seamstress. Luo and the little seamstress soon fall in love but it seem pretty obvious throughout the book that the narrator himself was in love with her though he never openly admits it. During this period, no one is allowed to read or own any other book apart from the little red book of sayings written by Chairman Mao. Luo and the narrator come by some translations of classic english novels and reading those books turns out to be a life changing experience for them and the little seamstress. I can’t imagine having a restriction on my reading! That would be the worst thing ever.
The novel was pretty humorous in many areas. I loved the story of the alarm clock. Luo and the narrator bring with them a little rooster alarm clock. A clock is an unknown item in the village and soon, it assumes the position of an idol. Little anecdotes about the alarm clock and the story telling prowess of Luo and the narrator lighten the mood of the book. What could have been a rather heavy book about oppression of freedom during Mao’s rule becomes light and easy to read.
I really think that this was a charming book. If you ever get a chance, do pick this book up! I guess there is a movie that’s based on this book that came out in 2002. I am planning to watch that one as well.
Here’s a link to Natasha’s review that made me want to read this book - Natasha.
If you have read this one as well, please do leave me a link in the comments section and I’ll add it to my post!