Friday, September 26, 2014

More #Diversiverse Review-itas: India and China

India Becoming Akash Kapur
India Becoming, by Akash Kapur.  An uneven book about the impact of modernization on India.  Kapur doesn't say anything that hasn't been said before.  For some, opening India economically has been a boon; for others, it has only made their lives even harder.  India is a land of haves and have-nots, and while many people are coming up in the world with the new economy (particularly those in real estate), it's coming at the expense of a rich culture and way of life that had many positives.
While the caste system is breaking down, life is still difficult for women who try to balance being independent with the oftentimes rampant sexism that exists in the workplace and their homes.  Life is also difficult for homosexuals, many of whom must hide their true selves from those they are closest to.

Kapur doesn't seem to know what to make of all this himself, and it shows in his narrative.  He talks to many people about what life is like in India now, but just as he thinks all is well, he will hear a story that makes him think everything is horrible.  And the cycle repeats.  Probably a good read if you don't know much about the polarity of life in India today, but if you have read modern Indian novels or newspaper/magazine editorials over the past several years, you won't encounter any new information here.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sije

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a slim volume set in 1970s China.  Two teenage boys have been sent to a rural town to be re-educated as their fathers both ended up on the wrong side of the law.  There, they both fall in love with a beautiful young seamstress.  They also find illegal reading material by French authors like Dumas and Balzac.

The two boys are fantastic storytellers and they begin weaving stories of passion and love and revolution into the stories they share with the seamstress and the others in the village.  And, as stories are wont to do, they have great impact on the people who hear them.

Talk about diverse reading!  This book is by a Chinese author, written in French, translated into English, and then produced as an audiobook which I read.

This novel felt very episodic to me, and I don't know if it translated very well into audiobook.  In some ways (ok, mainly in that it was about two teenage boys and one girl and a totalitarian regime), it reminded me of David Benioff's City of Thieves, though I enjoyed Benioff's work more.  The humor here wasn't quite as well done, and while I think the setting was richly developed and easy to immerse myself in, the characters were not nearly as memorable.  I did love that the seamstress heard stories and wanted to expand her world, though, in a very independent and wonderful manner (hopefully that isn't too much of a spoiler).  Girl power! :-)


10 comments:

  1. I think it would be the second one for me

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  2. Are you sure it's not Review-ettes? Or Reviewlets? Or Weeviews?

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    1. I like Weeviews! Too late now to change it, though.

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    2. Ahahahaha, Weeviews is wonderful.

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  3. I've been wanting to read "Balzac" for awhile - thanks for the reminder!

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  4. I read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress years ago with a book group, but even reading your review didn't bring it back in my memory, so I guess I need to read it again!

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  5. About "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" - did you notice that what the boys did in the end was exactly the same as the authorities had done - getting rid of the books, when the influence of the books turned out to be different from what was expected?

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    1. I did NOT notice that and now feel a little silly as, well, probably a very key theme for the book, right? Thank you for pointing it out to me!

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  6. My boyfriend recently checked Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress out from the library and I meant to read it before it went back. Thanks for the reminder - it sounds interesting, especially after reading nipernaadiagain's comment above...!

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  7. Oh I was hoping India Becoming would be a lot better. Thanks for the warning!

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