Storia squallida e superficiale di un branco di viziati/tossici. Protagonista estremamente arrogante e altezzosa: "io sono bella", "io sono sexy"... Qualcosa mi dice che l'autrice sia esattamente come la sua creaturina protagonista. Deludente....Continua
I give it two stars rather than one because although I read it with disdain, I was still compelled to read it. For all its literary pretension (every chapter beings with a quotation to prove how well read the author is), it`s still a trashy novel. And I don`t just mean that because of the many explicit sex scenes in the novel. Sex was merely one of the many ways the author used to describe the attractiveness of the main character Coco, a thinly veiled self-portrait of the author. The many pop culture and literary references are used to show her intelligence. But just in case we`ve missed the unsubtle character sketches, the protagonist can hardly contain her high sensibility of her own beauty and intellect.
[The protagonist speaking of herself in the third person]
"The man sat entranced against the railing, sad but grateful, watching the woman dance in the moonlight. Her body was smooth as a swan's yet powerful as a leopard's. To him, every feline crouch, leap, and turn was elegant yet madly seductive."
Her vanity is compounded with selfish behaviour in her relationships with others to form a highly unlikeable character. When the tragic climax occurs, it is hard to pity her, as one feels that she was responsible, and that she knew all along that her actions would lead to it.
I can see why this was banned in China with its infamous censorship. Explicit sex scenes, disaffected youth, wealthy socialites and their parasites, ex-madams and drug addicts, would not be looked upon as a positive portrayal of young China. But just because it`s banned doesn`t make it good.
It reminded me of much more serious and depressing version of the film `Bright, Young Things` (based on the book `Vile Bodies` by Evelyn Waugh that I haven`t read), about that beautiful yet empty world of being cool and wealthy. If that is an accurate portrayal of Shanghai in the late `90s, then that is a sociologically interesting aspect of the book.
A lot happens in the book to keep the plot moving, and everyone loves the drama of a love triangle, but at the end you are filled with the same emptiness that fills the main character throughout the book, and distaste at the fact of being so enthralled by such a soulless being.
An unpleasant protagonist doesn`t mean a bad book, but a narcissistic portrait of the author by means of its protagonist does make an unpleasant book. To me, it seems to be inherently egocentric to write books about writers and it`s especially so when the plot is constantly embellished with descriptive outpourings about the weather and the characters` surroundings. Of course, some of the language faults can be put down to the translation.
I enjoyed reading the book insofar as the plot kept me hooked like most trashy novels, but afterwards I was left with a feeling of discomfort and distaste having witnessed an exercise in literary masturbation.
I thought this was an insightful review
This might have been the wrong book to read simultaneously with Smedley's. After pages and pages of life and death struggle the rather spoilt life of a modern girl living in Shanghai seemed terribly superficial. There were just so many references to American culture in it, at one point when someone was described as having "eyes that lit up just like when Rose saw Jack in Titanic I actually began to wonder if the translator was taking liberties! But the odd reference to Gong Li and Faye Wong convinced me that it was just that way.
The book was supposed to be shocking because of its open/frequent descriptions of sex. I suppose it was novel in that it was written by a woman, but having read centuries old Chinese porn it really didn't surprise me and just seemed a bit irrelevant. The young woman writer was having an affair, but as her boyfriend was impotent this seemed hardly surprising.
The lifestyle of the young people seemed like it could have been in any city in the world, and I found it rather unattractive. I guess when I've read novels where young women go clubbing and have a lot of sex they are all on the punk or queer end of things, everything that Cocoa did in this book reminded me of how I imagine the women in Sex and the City behaving, (I've never seen it just seemed so terribly mainstream and dull). There was one club they went to where they celebrated 30s Shanghai and played Zhou Xuan and that sounded like a perfect night out but that was the only part I liked. I think the shallowness of the author detracts from the type of story that she's trying to tell. An honest glimpse into her world and thoughts. I know Ding (Ting) Ling did this exceptionally well in the 20s and these type of stories usually do grab me but this time it just all seemed to glitzy to be real. There didn't seem to be enough depth to the honesty.
As the novel goes on her boyfriend's depression deepens and he ends up becoming a drug addict and eventually ODs. Unfortunately he is rather a shadowy character, he rarely speaks or acts, he usually just appears in the narrators thoughts to create guilt or feelings of love. But there is nothing to make him stand out besides being the abandoned tortured artist stereotype. The fact that her boyfriend dies should have been more significant or tragic. I did enjoy the later part of the book more as the world started to crumble, but the narrator just seemed totally incapable about doing anything with the situation she was presented with. She just passively let everything happen.
I did find the self referential bits about the novel a bit annoying, towards the end it was "my novel is almost complete" and so on. Perhaps it was less annoying in the Chinese, its hard to say with translations. Its good to read more modern Chinese literature, I've not read much since the 60s or 70s and that I didn't enjoy very much. But I think I much prefer the older stuff. Still I may one day attempt to read a Chinese copy of the book, it would be good for all the sexual vocabulary if nothing else!...Continua