Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Once Upon A Time In The East - Xiaolu Guo

A memoir that is honest and compelling .

The author and I go back quite a way. She was one of the first writers I read after coming to the UK. Therefore a bit special. I remember the book so well - A concise English-Chinese dictionary for lovers, what a funny title but seriously the book was good. It was interesting to see how the writer created this work and I could see the connections.

So, when I was hunting for books on China, this one came up in my library. I realised it was a memoir but not that keen. I wanted fiction that would give me an insight into the chinese culture. This book gave me that and more.

Gist:

Guo was 2 when she was given away to her grandparents. She met her parents when she was 7. That in itself pushes the intrigue quotient. Further more she talks about her move from the fishing village to the compound where she lived with her parents as communists. She then traces her journey from Beijing to the cosmopolitan streets of London and her experiences as she makes the move.

What works:
  • For a writer who was late to read and write, battling severe myopia that was undiagnosed for a long time. Plus to add to the mix, introduced to the English language only as an adult, it is an amazing feat indeed. Her writing style made me sit up well past my bedtime just so I could get few more pages in.
  • I read this book for an insight into China and it did provide me with one. The censorship and the way of life is something that Guo is not apologetic about and is reflective of the Chinese society.
  • Her perspective on life is reflective of her experiences. It is clearly and succintly conveyed in the book. 
  • Guo does not seem short on courage. Her candid memoir does not try to dress up her relationships with her mother. 
  • She writes with clinical detachment about some deeply personal experiences. It is amazing how she tackles tough subjects in the book, after all it is her own life. But it she makes it highly accessible to the reader.





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