A wise little story . . . a richly complex fable . . . like a beautifully tailored garment . . . poetic and affecting.
That’s what the reviews on the back of the book say, but I didn’t get it. I read this book on the recommendaton of Jane at Much Ado, and I, too liked the parts about the suitcase full of books and how the books enriched and transformed the lives of the people who read and heard the stories. However, the ending was beyond sad. I won’t give away the ending, but after that kind of self-imposed tragedy, how could any of the main characters in the novel ever experience joy again? The narrator says that he and his friend Luo have only a three in a thousand chance of escaping their Chinese Cultural Revolution re-education camp, but as the book ended, it felt as if they were doomed. Even if they did leave the village to which they were exiled, what would they do?
It just occurred to me: the ending to this book reminded me of the ending to Bee Season. Someone gives up the one thing that has brought joy to his/her life so that? What? To prove a point? What point?
For pointless fiction that’s beautifully written and hopeful along the way, I recommend both Bee Season and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. When you get through with either one, come back and tell me why they did it.