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MBI 2019 Longlist: Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue

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Book 6 and we are handing you back over to panellist Tracy for this one…

Synopsis from Goodreads: The most ambitious work of fiction by a writer widely considered the most important novelist working in China today

In this darkly comic novel, a group of women inhabits a world of constant surveillance, where informants lurk in the flower beds and false reports fly. Conspiracies abound in a community that normalizes paranoia and suspicion. Some try to flee—whether to a mysterious gambling bordello or to ancestral homes that can be reached only underground through muddy caves, sewers, and tunnels. Others seek out the refuge of Nest County, where traditional Chinese herbal medicines can reshape or psychologically transport the self. Each life is circumscribed by buried secrets and transcendent delusions.

Can Xue’s masterful love stories for the new millennium trace love’s many guises—satirical, tragic, transient, lasting, nebulous, and fulfilling—against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of commerce and industry, fraud and exploitation, and sex and romance drawn from the East and the West.

Tracy’s Thoughts: A group of women in China live in a paranoid community, where they are watched and gossiped about, while they try to find love and escape from the community. There are places they run to: ancestral homes, and a moving pachinko parlor. The loves they pursue are with scoundrels, and elderly former scoundrels, but each of the men have some redeeming quality.

These stories are dark, but humorous. The writing is really well done, and this is an original and creative book. I do feel like I’ve missed something in this book- like there are cultural or mythological references that I don’t know, but I enjoyed what I did understand. The women  were well drawn and human. There wasn’t much of a plot- more of a time progression, but there were mini-plots along the way. I also feel this one will be shortlisted, just because it’s a hard book to qualify.

Writing quality:5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development:4/4
Plot development:2/4
Overall enjoyment:2/2
Total: 18/20

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Rankings:

Love in the New Millennium 18/20
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead 16.5/20
The Faculty of Dreams 14.5/20
Celestial Bodies 14/20
Four Soldiers 14/20
The Death of Murat Idrissi 10.5/20

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