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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. [Paperback]

Dai. Sijie
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)

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Book by Dai Sijie

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First Sentence
"The village headman, a man about fifty, sat cross-legged in the centre of the room, close to the coals burning in a heart that was hollowed out of the floor; he was inspecting my violin." Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Balzac and the Chinese Seamstress June 7 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A wonderful little book, can be read in an afternoon. This novel is about two sophisticated young Chinese men and their adventures in reeducation and romance during the cultural revolution of the early 70's. This book has been reviewed by Robert Adams and this review can be seen on youtube. Highly recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Dec 30 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautifully written, I loved the characters, the setting, the feeling of being. Culture and believes thru out the book are both entertaining and surprising.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings Aug. 1 2003
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Sijie Dai, presents the story of two young men moved from the city to the Chinese countryside to be re-educated during Mao's Cultural Revolution. The young men discover and read a number of foreign books (forbidden during the revolution), the contents of which captivate their thinking.
BLCS is beautifully written and has an evenly flowing prose. It gives a glimpse into the toils and struggles so many in history have had to endure. For the most part, I found reading it relaxing and enjoyable.
As a whole, though, I cannot give an enthusiastic recommendation. First, the plot wasn't overly gripping; while I finished it in two sittings, there was rarely a spot where it wouldn't have been easy to put it down. While the narrative contained some twists and turns, it was for the most part linear and often predictable. Ultimately, the story's conclusion left me unsatisfied.
I think a word of warning is also in order for those who are sensitive about mature themes. BLCS contains some crudeness and graphic imagery, as well as some explicit sensuality. Additionally, an important component of the plot deals in a matter-of-fact way with a subject that is divisive and many find offensive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that grows on a reader July 5 2004
With each passing day I mentally revisit scenes from this spare novel. (Spare in length and style.) The premise--the children of Chinese professionals who have been designated "enemies of the state" during the Cultural Revolution are sent to be "re-educated" by peasants in remote villages--is immediately engaging.
The chances for these youths to return to any semblance of their former lives are slim. The main characters in this story, the unnamed narrator and his close friend Luo, wind up sharing quarters in the same remote village on the side of a mountain and they find solace in their friendship and with their love and admiration for the beautiful daughter of the local tailor. They also discover and steal a cache of French novels, literature that has been forbidden by the anti-intellectual Red Guard. Nevertheless, they immerse themselves in the literature and the stories give them hope of better times and release from the hardships of their transplanted lives. The books are also seen by Luo as the means by which he may transform the Little Chinese Seamstress into a civilized, urbane woman. The complications of love and re-education drive the plot. Of course, re-education comes to mean more than what the powers behind the Cultural Revolution intend: it includes what the two boys learn about themselves and their neighbors and, ironically, the consequences of Luo's presumption that the seamstress will benefit from his civilizing instruction based upon the French literature.
Dai Sijie's style is clean and simple. The novel is very much about story-telling, and the narrator, in retelling his experiences, provides the model for an effective narrative (without Western Post-Modern self-referential gimmickry). The character's are endearing and memorable, the settings are vivid, and the events are believable and very, very human. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress July 30 2008
By Pauline
"Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie is a wonderful journey into China during the time of the infamous Cultural Revolution. The story is about two teens that have been sent to the country side for re-education. Both Luo and the unnamed narrator of the book are children from educated families, Luo's dad is a dentist who even worked on Mao Zedong's teeth and the narrator's father was a lung specialist and his mother was a consultant in parasitic diseases. Since both boys had educated parents they were sent to be re-educated.

The journey of re-education is harsh and the villagers are untrusting of all the items the two boys bring to the village. They are allowed to keep a rooster alarm clock and a violin. The boys are sent to watch movies in a nearby town with the expectation of when they return that they would act out the movie in its entirety for the whole village.

The book is about the power of story telling and mostly about the power of the written word.

The boys meet the seamstress' daughter and both fall in love with her. Luo has a relationship with her and decides she needs to be educated to better suit him. The two boys read to her western literature and her eyes are opened to many possibilities.

The two boys and their cache of forbidden Western literature including, of course, Balzac opens their eyes to a new world. The literature proves to be a double edged sword, however, for the boys lose the one thing that was making their life bearable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Simple story--well told Sept. 22 2006
Basically this is the story of China and the struggles that several people go through. I was reminded at times of "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck in that it truly shows the land and people in great detail AND has a good story. Also recommended: "Bark of the Dogwood" which is longer and more intricate--deals with the Southern United States and family dysfunction.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars P-U
I see this book is coupled with KITE RUNNER and the only reason I can think of for this is that it's exotic in content and involves two young men. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2007 by Harriet
4.0 out of 5 stars A small book, but a deeply moving one
The power of books to transform the unspeakable into the sublime. Why roses can grow on a garbage heap. Read more
Published on July 4 2007 by Mary Ellen
4.0 out of 5 stars A well crafted novel with an ironic twist!
Aside from portraying a vivid image of China during the Mao years, this novel is also a very well crafted satire (in the same league as one of my favourite novelists -Somerset... Read more
Published on March 5 2005 by Andrea
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay book
Recently I've been lucky with my bestseller or recommended picks, having read Martel's LIFE OF PI and McCrae's CHILDREN'S CORNER. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2005 by ThomsEBynum
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic
This translation of Dai Sijie's novel can be poetic at times but, as is common with translated works, it can leave the reader questioning the cultural context of some passages or... Read more
Published on July 14 2004 by T. Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle and Understated
A wonderful, subtle, understated story of growing up during Mao's cultural revolution and 're-education'. Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by Jaye Beldo
5.0 out of 5 stars a new favorite
After reading the book Wild Swans by Jung Chang, I became interested in learning about China's cultural revolution. Read more
Published on July 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The Irony Shines Through
Delightful, entertaining book. I thoroughly enjoyed this little book showing a bit of Chinese history. Read more
Published on June 29 2004 by A. Hackworth
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