Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

This book is absolutely stunning. My mom sent it to me in a care package a few weeks ago and I finished it in about a week. It’s beautifully written and incredibly resonating, especially due to the subject matter. It follows two young boys in China who are sent to be “re-educated” in the mountains during the Mao era of the late 60s and early 70s.

If you’re not familiar with the re-education movement, basically Mao and the Communist party at the time would send anybody they considered ‘enemies of the state’ to remote villages to become better Communists in order to serve the party. And Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress follows two young boys from the city who are children of doctors, dentists, and a poet to the mountains where they are dropped off in order to be rehabilitated. And they don’t expect to learn much so they brought Western books and a violin, both often considered contraband, to pass the time. But naturally, they fall in love.

And the book is so well done, I might have to re-read it again. It’s a beautiful story about worlds coming together and sheds a light on a time during history we frankly don’t know enough about. And it ends in such an unexpectedly tragic yet weirdly beautiful way. Pick this book up, you won’t regret it.

Favourite quote: She had learnt one thing from Balzac: that a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price.


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