This review appeared in the November 2022 edition of the Critic magazine Dutch historian Frank Dikötter’s works on Mao, the “People’s Trilogy”, have rightly garnered superlative praise. Through painstaking work in increasingly inaccessible provincial archives, he has documented the horrors of Mao’s rule, made only more chilling through Dikötter’s calm, clear prose and methodical process. Readers needContinue reading “Review #28: China After Mao”
I am not a particularly zealous foodie. The meals my mind reaches back to for solace seem to be more about quantity than quality (I have my own issues there), or memorable for some other reason: the disastrous, Pinter-worthy birthday dinner party; the time we were being boisterously rude about James Corden at the IvyContinue reading “Review #27: The Emperor’s Feast”
This is a book I’ve been sitting on for some time. I’m not sure why. I’ve enjoyed Yan Lianke’s previous books – those that I’ve read (Serve the People!, The Explosion Chronicles) have been smart, readable and memorable satires on the Revolutionary period. I loved the cover art and design for Hard Like Water (堅硬如水)Continue reading “Review #26: Hard Like Water”
It’s funny how easy it is to break a habit and how hard it is to get it back. I’ve been a regular, consistent reader for years, but I had not opened a book for several months until earlier this week after an upsetting personal period. I had the idea to do a bumper ‘round-up’Continue reading “Reviews #19-25: Bumper Spring Historical Fiction Special!”
A confession: the period 1946-49 is a weak spot in my knowledge of 20th century Chinese history, and I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that. In mainstream English language histories, which tend to take a broad sweep, it often gets summarised as ‘and then the civil war restarted in earnest, and the Communists won’:Continue reading “Review #18: China 1949”
Look who’s back! Occasionally I reflect just what an elegant and complementary group the Big Four Classic Novels are. I generally don’t like anything so reductive and it always feels a bit rough on those great works that don’t make the cut, but aren’t they just a perfect little group, covering the breadth of (proto-)genres?Continue reading “Review #17: Monkey King”
Mai Jia’s The Message, which is just out in the UK in paperback through Head of Zeus, has sat very patiently on my to-read pile for much of the year, and finally reached the top just before Christmas which, predictably, added about a dozen new books to that pile. I’d been looking forward to itContinue reading “Review #16: The Message”
We meet again, Inspector Chen, you frustrating enigma. When Qiu Xiaolong’s first Inspector Chen book was released I was beside myself with excitement. It promised everything that a young man fascinated by China, prone to pretentiousness, and steeped in British TV crime dramas could possibly want! Crime mystery, set in China, loaded with Chinese poetryContinue reading “Review #15: Becoming Inspector Chen”
Something I love about reading modern Chinese fiction in English now is that, compared to when I first started haunting bookshops, so much genre fiction is available. I have no hard evidence of this – perhaps one for a future deep dive – but browse in a large bookshop or on publishers’ or agents’ websitesContinue reading “Review #14: Fate”
In all the turmoil of 2020 (and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come) I keep remembering a poll by YouGov back in June during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. It showed that here in the UK 63% of non-white people have had a racial slur said to them directly. But it’sContinue reading “Review #13: Interior Chinatown”
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