Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: 07/02/06
When I first joined BookCrossing in 2003, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was one of the most popular books being read. I liked the title and since so many other folks were reading it I signed up for a ring. Unfortunately the ring stalled or was lost in the mail. Then last year sometime I received a copy by way of Cliff's wishlist site. Until a week or so ago the book sat on my BookCrossing shelf next to our bed. This year I've made a better effort to get books read off that shelf and then to release them. Now that I've finished the book the book and the buzz around the book has died down (at least at BookCrossing) I will be taking to the July 11th meeting to either give to another member or to wild release after the meeting concludes.
Here is my BookCrossing review:
I enjoyed the book up until the last few chapters. The bulk of the book is written with humor as it outlines the experience of two young men sent to country for "re-education." They find little ways to rebel at first: toying with an alarm clock's settings, for example. Later they read forbidden books by Balzac, Dickens, Dumas, etc. The last fifty pages or so the story turns dark as it lets Luo and the Little Chinese Seamstress speak for themselves. What had been a comedic look at a dark part of China's recent history, turns suddenly to tragedy or at least melodrama. Without better character development for Luo and the seamstress, their insights and actions at the end seem out of character.
In other words, the author seemed to get bored with his story and decided to take a wildly different narrational approach to finish the book. The last few chapters seem rushed and the characters act in ways that so far they haven't acted in. I found this tangent disorienting and unsatisifying. I rated the book 7 out of 10 stars because of the ending.