Recent Reads: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress By Dai Sijie


As a means to rejuvenate the leisure parts of my brain, I decided to look at some of the books on my shelf that are shorter reads and make my way through them, a sort of self challenge, if you will. The first one on my list, even though I’m someone who reads several books at once, was Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Now, I had no idea about the author or the book, it was one of those purchases that caught my eye and had the potential to be interesting. I judged the book by its cover and it paid off. Ignoring the quoted praise and National Bestseller*, I focused on the spine, title, and the cover photograph. All captivating and well done. I also enjoy exposing myself to more authors/writers from around the world whenever possible, so that was an additional incentive for me to get it.

The story is one that tells the life of childhood friends sent into “The Cultural Revolution” re-education tactics under Chairman Mao and a tailor’s daughter they meet along the way. If you’re someone who grew up in the Southern U.S., you might have heard a little about Chairman Mao and China’s Communist Party. I, however, didn’t recall much about what he did to his people, aside from things that were, to say the least, shitty. Sijie takes readers into a personal account of what it was like for not only those in the rural parts of China, but those from the city that were further up the ranks of the social class ladder and taken away from their families, their culture and forced into a life of labor and restricted reading (e.g. propaganda).

The book was fascinating, and it didn’t take me long to finish. The story is one that will stick with me for a while, and I would be delighted to read more of Sijie’s works, and check out some of his films (just learned that tidbit of info).

*Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was a National Bestseller in Europe (France), so that may hold more prestige than if it had climbed up easily in the US. I am often skeptical of our Bestseller lists and thus quick to disregard that achievement.

This segment isn’t really about giving reviews per se either, but continuing in the same vein as the Currently Readings. So I’ll share some commentary about the books and select only titles I would encourage others to read as well, if one hasn’t already.

If you like this Recent Reads and the Currently Reading segments, let me know by commenting, liking, sharing, and/or rating and I’ll try to turn them into a more consistent ongoing series.

Thanks for reading!

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