Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Couple of Book Reviews

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel by Sijie Dai

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

**********Warning -- Spoiler Alert ********************

I read this book all in one night. It was written about two friends being "re-educated" in communist China in the early 1970's. (Interestingly, the author himself had been through re-education). While the two city boys are working in a remote mountain village, they get acquainted with the Little Seamstress, a beautiful girl who the one boy, Luo, falls in love with, and who both boys are captivated by.

Being educated boys, able to read and write, they feel a duty to help broaden the Little Seamstress' horizons by reading to her from a stash of forbidden Western novels they find. After tales from Balzac and the Count of Monte Cristo, the Little Seamstress slowly, and inevitably, begins to change, cuts her hair, changes her style, and decides she wishes to be a city girl. And she leaves her love and her friend to take her beauty and her new-found knowledge and intelligence with her.

To me it read as a parable, a cautionary tale, and I was so sad at the end. I actually thought that one sad outcome was going to happen, but was rapidly introduced to the new one. Neither would have been a happy ending. The book, although sad, was a terrific read, and it often had some rather funny moments. This is for anyone who has ever lost themselves to the world of books.

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was deeply, deeply affected by this book. I've read and loved everything Augusten Burroughs has ever written, and have enjoyed his writing style -- the laugh-til-you-cry type of writing that keeps me reading all night long and into the early hours of the morning. Yes, it covers some deeply human subjects, but his humor was, to me, wonderful.

This book was a departure from the norm. I won't go into the plot. What I'll say is that it took great courage to write this book, greater courage to survive his life intact in order TO write it. I can't write much more about it. Like I said, it affected me deeply, and to write at length about it tends to make my hands shake.

Read the book.

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