Saturday, 23 January 2010

Xinran: Miss Chopsticks

This is the uplifting story of three sisters who, like so many migrant workers in today's China, leave their peasant community to seek their fortune in the big city. The Li sisters don't have much education, but one thing has been drummed into them: their mother is a failure because she hasn't managed to produce a son, and they themselves only merit a number as a name.Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. Men, on the other hand, are the strong rafters that hold up the roof of a house. Yet when circumstances lead the sisters to seek work in distant Nanjing, the shocking new urban environment opens their eyes. While Three contributes to the success of a small fast-food restaurant, Five and Six learn new talents at a health spa and a bookshop/tearoom. And when the money they earn starts arriving back at the village, their father is forced to recognise that daughters are not so dispensable after all. Xinran has become known for her wonderful ability to take readers to the heart of Chinese society.

This is a lovely story with fairy-tale quality and lots of humour. Although Three, Five and Six come from the same family they are very different, yet in their own ways they are all successful. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is Five who is usually considered as "dumb and no-brains" that seems to have learnt best how to cope in the city and how to flourish despite the lack of education she experienced in her home village. However, this book also gives a great insight into Chinese culture and how China is now opening up to the Western world and in many ways seems trapped between ancient traditions and modernity.

No comments:

Post a Comment