Tag Archives: Translated books

Review : Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi

Book Review of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Wang Anyi

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of ShanghaiMy Thoughts after Reading

This literary fiction is translated from a Chinese work. It takes its title from a classic Tang dynasty poem about the tragic love between the Emperor and his favourite concubine.

Right from the opening chapter, the author invites you to step inside the world and relish in every minutiae of Shanghai life. I am amazed at how the author is able to describe so much about everyday things we take for granted, from apartment blocks to pigeons.

I recognised some of the expressions in Chinese. In some ways, I would say the beauty of the language in the original text is lost in translation. I say this because a single word in Chinese, after translation, becomes a three syllable word in English, or a string of words to describe the same context. When the rhythm is lost, the reader can only grasp about 70-80% of the author’s original intent.

This story centres on Wang Qiyao, from a high-schooler all the way to her death decades later. Although she is the main character, this account is narrated from a detached omniscient view. Right to the end, I didn’t really understand her. I felt as if I’ve seen her entire life through frosted glass. People came and went in her life. They seem to be drawn to her, but apart from her beauty, I could not understand why. She lived through the tumultuous times in China history, but the author has skirted round these historical events. We get little hints that it’s going on outside.

Nonetheless, the unhurried pace allows you to immerse completely in every aspect of Shanghai life. 3/5

Goodreads Blurb

Set in post-World War II Shanghai, “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the “longtong,” the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai’s working-class neighborhoods.

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of “old Shanghai”–a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication–only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth.

From the violent persecution of communism to the liberalism and openness of the age of reform, this sorrowful tale of old China versus new, of perseverance in the face of adversity, is a timeless rendering of our never-ending quest for transformation and beauty. 

Review : The Cat who Came in off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmdt

Middle-grade book review of The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt

The Cat Who Came in Off the RoofMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is a quirky read about a journalist and a woman who thinks she is a cat.

The journalist is too shy to talk to people to find news. His editor has given him an ultimatum. By chance he meets a frightened woman who mentioned something newsworthy. He offers her shelter in his place in exchange for news about town.

This story is highly entertaining. On the outside Minou looks like any human being, but her behaviour is every bit cat. She likes fish, is frightened of dogs, and is driven to distraction by anything that swings or flies. Any middle-grader will be convinced by her story of being a cat turned into human, even if our journalist doubts her. Despite his skepticism, he is open enough to accept her as she is. This is the heart-warming part of the story.

Highly recommended!

Goodreads Blurb

A charming Dutch classic that withstands the test of time worldwide and will appeal to readers young and old–and dog and cat lovers alike!

“A charming, refreshing, and funny treat.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred

Shy reporter Mr. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes about cats. But when an act of kindness brings him into contact with the unusual Miss Minou, his luck suddenly begins to change.

Minou provides Tibble with juicy news. But it’s who is giving her the gossip that’s newsworthy. Minou claims that the tips come from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative but can’t help wondering: How could this be? And why is Minou so terrified of dogs and so skilled at climbing trees and rooftops?

It’s almost as if she’s a cat herself.

More praise for THE CAT WHO CAME IN OFF THE ROOF

“Schmidt raises questions about what it is to be human, what it is to be a cat . . . and what it means to accept someone for who she is.” —Shelf Awareness, Starred (