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Booker International Longlist 2023 – Ninth Building

Ninth Building

Book 3Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi Translated by Jeremy Tiang

Reviewed by Rachel & Tracy

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: A fascinating collection of vignettes based on the author’s life in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Revisiting his experiences as a boy in Beijing and then as a teenager exiled to the countryside, Zou captures a side of the Cultural Revolution that is seldom talked about – the sheer tedium and waste of young life under the regime, as well as the gallows humour that accompanies such desperate situations.

Tracy’s Thoughts:  This was different- in the US, we don’t get many takes on life in Maoist China. This was realist fiction, but it was very realistic- almost too real at times.

I’m glad I got to read it, but I think this deserves at least one more read to let some of the nuances sink in. I think there’s a lot more to this than just what is relayed on the surface.

Again, another book without much of a plot, more of a timeline, but writing that more than makes up for it.

Writing quality: 4.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3.5/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overal enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 16/20

Rachel’s Thoughts: So far, this is the longlist book that has surprised me the most. It feels like a memoir, with episodes from the main character’s life growing up during the cultural revolution, but is published as fiction.

The perspective is really what sets the book apart. While there are obviously distressing incidents, particularly towards the start, much of it is young people being young people: playing music, gambling, teasing each other… and then something happens to show just what a bizarre, traumatic experience they’re living through.

This contrast really brings the characters’ lives close to home, and highlights the internal minefield they’re having to navigate in everything they do. I liked this a lot.

Writing quality: 3.5/5
Originality 4.5/5
Character development 3/4
Plot development 3/4
Overall enjoyment 2/2
Total 16/20

Have you read this one? Let us know what you think.

Still Born 17.25
Ninth Building 16
Whale 15.5

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