Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth: A Novel - Xiaolu Guo NARRATIVE STYLE AND STRUCTURE
As the title implies, this is a fragmentary account of youthful ambition, rather than a conventional novel. It is deliberately raw and unpolished: fast-paced, often angry and slightly stilted.

Some of the fragment titles are amusingly banal, such as "Fenfang sits on the edge of a swimming pool but doesn't get in", and in some ways that sums up the charm of this brief book.

Fenfang is a young Chinese woman who, around the turn of the millennium, leaves the claustrophobic monotony of her family and village life to go to Beijing and get into the film industry. Even once there, she is torn between the need to conform (her "Mao drawer") and desire to rebel (leaving home).

Of course, city life isn't quite as glamorous as she hoped: her boyfriend is awful and when she does get parts, they are as the most irrelevant extra. Nevertheless, she is determined and persistent.

I was a little puzzled as to how her menial jobs enabled her to earn enough to live the life she describes and, despite the classes she took to better herself, was surprised that a self-described uneducated peasant likened someone to a Greek god and was reading Kafka - but I suppose that reflects my prejudices.

It presents some interesting insights into Chinese life and culture (though her description of Xian doesn't chime much with either of my visits). There is the cliché of the importance of not losing face, but in the context of an only child and her parents, it is more poignant. The importance of knowing someone's age is explained and the terror of a police raid, even in "modern" China is conveyed.

See her first book (I think): A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/23326274.

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China Miéville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake