Imagine that it’s the Cultural Revolution, and your parents were intellectuals. You get sent off to be “re-educated”, which just means doing the menial labor no one else wants to do. It’s a small town, with no technology, no entertainment. Just work. You and your fellow male re-educate-ee discover two things: a pretty girl and a book by Balzac. What happens? What would you do to make your lives a little more enjoyable?
That’s the premise of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. It has been highly praised, and it was a fine book. My expectations, however, were too high. It was not as good as promised. I didn’t feel the weight of carrying buckets of shit up mountains each day, and I didn’t feel the relief of the occasional happy moment. I understand that a) menial labor sucks and b) getting a chance to relax after back-breaking work is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.
It’s a perfectly fine book. But I was expecting more.