Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Book - 2001
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An enchanting literary debut--already an international best-seller.

At the height of Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution, two boys are among hundreds of thousands exiled to the countryside for "re-education." The narrator and his best friend, Luo, guilty of being the sons of doctors, find themselves in a remote village where, among the peasants of Phoenix mountain, they are made to cart buckets of excrement up and down precipitous winding paths. Their meager distractions include a violin--as well as, before long, the beautiful daughter of the local tailor.

But it is when the two discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation that their re-education takes its most surprising turn. While ingeniously concealing their forbidden treasure, the boys find transit to worlds they had thought lost forever. And after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, even the Little Seamstress will be forever transformed.

From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening and the magical power of storytelling.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, c2001.
ISBN: 9780375413094
Branch Call Number: FIC DAI
Characteristics: 197 p. ; 20 cm.


From the critics

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Oct 24, 2017

Our library's Art Lovers Book Club gave this an overall rating of 7 out of 10.
It had an ending that you either loved or hated!

Aug 04, 2016

SPL Summer Book Bingo: translated from another language

Sep 03, 2015

An interesting look into China's Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a man who lived it. Very nice writing, indented with subtle symbolism.

Reviewed: 6 Aug 2005

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 23, 2014

Two boys, both sons of doctors, are exiled to a remote Chinese village for re-education during the Cultural Revolution. Their salvation is a violin, a Balzac novel, and the beautiful daughter of a peasant tailor. Full of surprising twists, turns, and original characters, this magical novel would be a good choice for book groups.

May 06, 2014

great book for a look at China during the cultural revolution and life in the countryside, especially young people's lives.

Apr 25, 2014

'Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress' is a story of two young men sent from city to the Chinese countryside for 're-education' by Red Guards during Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution as their intellectual activities and foreign influences are perceived to be a threat to the communist regime. In their exile, they perform menial work and live in squalor however life is not too hard on them as they find repose in the stunningly beautiful surroundings of the Phoenix Mountain and take delight in teaching French literature to a local lass simply known as the little seamstress while trying to win her favours. The magic of books delivers a sense of freedom to the little seamstress as well as her grandfather in ways they had never thought possible.

Jun 07, 2013

This book was delightful

Nov 20, 2012

Interesting tale of two teenage boys during the cultural revolution in China when they are sent out of the city into the mountains to learn how the peasants live.

Apr 17, 2012

Six words: I will never read that again.

brianreynolds Jun 11, 2011

This certainly is a "likable" little tale. It seems to stutter quite a bit, trying to decide what exactly it's trying to say. It might be a complaint against authoritarian regimes, but it can't decide whether the characters are free to do whatever they want whenever they want or whether they are hard done by prisoners of a totalitarian dictator. It might be a touching story of first love or a train wreck of misjudged affection and misplaced trust. It might be about sophistication triumphing over ignorance or art over provincialism, but it just as easily could be trying to say that fancy underwear and a better accent can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Mercifully, it was short.

What made it less than memorable for me was the sparseness of the prose. Not mincing words can add incredible power to significant plot lines. I usually appreciate that a great deal. Not giving the reader enough information to fall in love with the characters, however, is a recipe for the reader not being engaged in the story. I had a hard time staying awake.

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Jun 24, 2013

violet_owl_156 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Jan 23, 2010

Seraph thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Aug 04, 2016

Interesting story about 2 boys in the 1970s in China who are exiled to the countryside for "re-education". They both fall in love with the prettiest girl on the mountain, the Little Seamstress. The boys are both quite fond of reading.


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