Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel

Dai Sijie
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-01-06
I seem to be on a tear this year of reading books about books. Most I've enjoyed, but few have presented the whole process of reading and learning in quite such a wonderful way as Dai Sijie does in this book. He ably illustrates the pleasures of reading, the way it takes us out of ourselves and improves our lives, by showing us how reading makes the whole process of "reeducation" in Mao's China more tolerable.

He shows us how we can become obsessed with books and reading, whether because we are in intolerable situations, or simply because they give us a look into other worlds. The young men in this story risk a great deal for their books without questioning whether its worth it or not. And with the same story he shows us how reading brings people together, and ultimately how it can tear them apart when readers grow in different directions, when they take different lessons and ideas from the same books.

It's a deft and surprisingly amusing story about reading, books, young love, ambition, hope, despair, and the power of stories. I enjoyed it tremendously.
Reviewed: 2016-05-10
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