Friday, October 30, 2009

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
By: Dai Sijie 4.8/5

Set in the 1970s of communist China, two young adult boys, 18 and 19, are sent to a small remote village to be “re-educated”. The Re-education is a passed law by the communist regime. The re-education through labor system has been in place since 1957 and was subjected to minor reforms by the Chinese government in 2007. This books takes you on a travel through the process of the educated people of China, to learn the basics of camaraderie in hard manual labor. It is only fit that the two sons, best friends, of doctors would be sent to carry excrement up a mountain. During the communist era in China, like in many other places, religion, books, art, music, and any culture, were banned, as this was a form of individual thought.

While exiled, with no hope of ever returning home, they learn the hard life of manual labor. The musician and the story teller are re-educated in their own way understanding the meaning of friendship, love and the hardships of life. They learn of a secret of a pile of books, that are forbidden and it entices the boys to steal them. In the meantime the boys befriend a lovely teenage girl, the seamstress, where with his story telling charms, Luo charms her. Thus begins the process of re-education for the little seamstress, an unconditional love of Balzac.

The story is a great historical fiction, incredibly fast read. It teaches you a lot, and can really take you back of communist China. Not different than the communist life I lived. Granted Romanian communism was the renaissance of communism. So while families weren’t re educated there was the idea of no intellectualism, and everyone on the same plane! OF course the most uneducated was the dictator and his wife. The ending wasn’t what I expected but it does take the surprising turn which I love. I always wonder had I read Balzac if the book would have taken any different or secret meanings!

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