Big Breasts & Wide Hips

Big Breasts & Wide Hips

A Novel

Book - 2012
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In his latest novel, Mo Yan--arguably China's most important contemporary literary voice--recreates the historical sweep and earthy exuberance of his much acclaimed novel Red Sorghum . In a country where patriarchal favoritism and the primacy of sons survived multiple revolutions and an ideological earthquake, this epic novel is first and foremost about women, with the female body serving as the book's central metaphor. The protagonist, Mother, is born in 1900 and married at seventeen into the Shangguan family. She has nine children, only one of whom is a boy--the narrator of the book. A spoiled and ineffectual child, he stands in stark contrast to his eight strong and forceful female siblings.

Mother, a survivor, is the quintessential strong woman who risks her life to save several of her children and grandchildren. The writing is picturesque, bawdy, shocking, and imaginative. The structure draws on the essentials of classical Chinese formalism and injects them with extraordinarily raw and surprising prose. Each of the seven chapters represents a different time period, from the end of the Qing dynasty up through the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, the civil war, the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao years. Now in a beautifully bound collectors edition, this stunning novel is Mo Yan's searing vision of twentieth-century China.
Publisher: New York : Arcade Pub., c2012.
ISBN: 9781611453430
1611453437
Characteristics: xiv, 532 p.
Alternative Title: Big breasts and wide hips

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CASSIE ERIN KELLEY
Sep 18, 2018

This book is an incredibly realistic tale of what I imagine it would have been like to live in China during those decades of unrest. Being a woman was much more difficult back then, as proved in the second chapter with Mother's feet being bound and then her decline in status in her family because she couldn't produce a son.

The strength and power of a woman is fully explored in this novel, whether it be through a third-person narrative or the perspective of Jintong, the only son of Mother. And while the females represented were all so strong, the men were shown to be weak to a fault in some way or another, including Jintong. Yes, the women had their weaknesses, but they also had something powerful in themselves that Jintong, Speechless Sun, and the other men just didn't have.

The first six chapters were incredible, taking a trip through time from 1900 to the middle of the century. The description was solid and the writing grand. However, the seventh chapter seemed out of place, which might have been intentional seeing as how fifteen years elapsed between the end of chapter six and the beginning of chapter seven. Everything just seemed unusual toward the end, and it was actually painful to see how weak Jintong really turned out to be.

This book was a good read, with interesting characters, and the tangled mess of the relationships in the family is very realistic, complicated and intense. If you're interested in historical fiction, this book is definitely for you, especially if you lean toward Asian historical fiction. The ending is weak, in my opinion, but it might entice other readers with its warmth.

This book is definitely not for children in any way, shape, or form, with graphic depictions of birth starting in the very first chapter. Romance begins in the second chapter, and it doesn't end there. Realistic relationships, consensual and non-consensual, are covered in the pages of this work, offering a glimpse into the harshness that life can take on. If you're mature enough to handle graphic, sometimes disturbing, subject matter and enjoy history, this is a good book for you.

m
mkince
Oct 19, 2014

This book is fantastic, in the true sense of the word. What an adventure and a trip!

It is similar to Pearl Buck's, The Good Earth. Disaster and hardship is followed by very brief joys in Chinas history.

r
Ron@Ottawa
Dec 03, 2012

This 15-year old novel by Mo Yan, the first Chinese writer to win a Nobel Literature Prize, is one thick novel which tells a story that span 3 generations. English translation is excellent. An great read for open-minded readers who are not intimidated by the great number of key characters in the book. Off these characters, women prevail over men.

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