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