Review of the Book Border Town: A Novel, by Shen
Summary of the Main Points and Critique
The book Border Town: A Novel, by Shen (2009) represents a work, which unites fiction and the documentary approach. The author introduces the storyline, which contains the events of the ordinary Chinese family. The setting of the book includes the time before the Communist Revolution in China. The rural life, which is portrayed in the given work, is an important detail. The writer provides a profound and comprehensive depiction of China before the Communist Revolution and the rural life of the country. The main character of Border Town: A Novel is a girl, whose name is Cuicui. Her old grandfather, who is 70 years old, rears his granddaughter in the rural part of China. Herein, the author narrates the destiny of Cuicui and shows how difficult her life is. Being pregnant, her mother decided to leave this world. Right after giving birth to Cuicui, the mother committed suicide; thus, in fact, Cuicui has never seen her parents alive. Being raised by the grandfather, the girl appears in difficult circumstances. They were mainly caused by her grandfathers desire to get Cuicui married. Nonetheless, she does not love a man who the grandfather chose as her husband. However, Cuicui falls in love with his younger brother. After the death of the elder brother, the younger one decides to leave the native place. Hence, he could not marry Cuicui. The inner worries behold Cuicui. She has nothing to do but to wait for him to be back to the village.
The events of the plot line unfold on the eve of the Communist Revolution. Herein, Shen (2009) depicts historical developments and highlights how they impact the life of ordinary people. The rural life of China becomes modified in the conditions of the revolution and the main characters are supposed to be flexible enough to survive under the new circumstances. Therefore, the author successfully unites the dramatic and romantic compounds of the plot with the political and historical ones. Hence, such an approach makes the book versatile and suggests numerous ideas on how the Communist Revolution in China changed the lives of people. The essential idea behind the book herein is that Congwen Shen provides personal comprehension of the events and creates the dramatic atmosphere, which is maintained throughout the book. In such a way, it is possible for the reader not only to perceive the personal tragedy of Cuicui and her grandfather, but also to understand the key historical processes, their effects on rural life and the inhabitants of the Chinese rural areas.
The author of the book pays much attention to the presentation of the nature of rural China, for instance, the river flooded, one could watch its sudden swelling from the city wall (Shen, 2009). Thus, such descriptions of nature in the rural part of China are very frequent in the book constituting a great share of the work. Moreover, these depictions provide an outline of the lifestyle in the pre-Communist Revolution period.
Having analyzed such an approach, one may understand that the book has been successfully written due to the fact that the author incorporates various strategies to make his writing diverse and interesting. Certainly, it is difficult to call the work scholarly or documentary, but Shen discusses the family life within the context of new historical and political events of that time. Therefore, the book does not possess any negative points and as a consequence, engages the reader.
It is possible to claim that the essential aim of the author is to incorporate the connection between the historical episodes and engagement of the main characters in those events. Thus, the subject of the book is portraying the destinies of people within the framework of the country, which stands on the eve of the revolution. In addition, the writer made considerable efforts to depict the personal drama of the protagonists. The book is written nicely, engaging the audience to continue the process of reading.
Connections between Chinese and North American Culture and Society
The way of depiction of the Chinese society and culture in the book determines the fact that it is difficult to find many connections with the North American manner of life, culture, and society. In general, the main connection herein consists in the opposition of these two lifestyles. On the one hand, in the book China was on the eve of the Communist Revolution. In the Northern America, however, there have never been any communist revolution. Instead, democracy has always been developing on the continent. Nevertheless, both China and North America are related with regard to the attitude towards the political ideology. They are very sensitive about their current political orders. China is known to be a purely communistic state, while the countries in North America are aimed at the development of democracy (Yoshihiro, 2014). Hence, this fact determines the cultural oppositions between life in China and North America. In addition, this aspect shapes understanding of the key processes, which occur in the societies of China and North America. Thus, it is possible to assume that the two regions belong to different cultural patterns.
Furthermore, the authors depiction of family ties, settings and events highlights that North American society had similar approaches. In China and North America, family relations are paramount; however, in the Chinese setting, family bonds are stronger. Certain scholars believe that they have been established in such a way due to the fact that the country underwent numerous military experiences (Xing & Christensen, 2016). Moreover, the cultural and social particularities of both China and North America point to the national identity of the representatives of these regions. The rural life could be very similar. For instance, in his book, Shen (2009) resorts to the description of scenery, within the vast surge of mountain waters from upstream, houses, oxen, sheep, and giant trees bobbed up and down. It is possible to assume that the North American landscape would not be different to a great extent from the viewpoint of the stock and nature, for example. As a consequence, one may argue that both China and North America had similar rural situations. In addition, the rural culture could be alike. However, according to another researcher, the life in North America could be richer and more prosperous than the one of rural China, especially before the Communist Revolution (Smith, 2015). Besides, this is evident because of the North American history, which had less instances of the military actions.
Personal Reflection The book Border Town: A Novel by Shen (2009) is one of the most versatile ones, as the author successfully incorporates numerous ideas and engages the reader. The writer helps the latter to perceive and learn much information on China before the Communist Revolution. The lives of people who inhabited the rural parts of China are also interesting to observe since they provide the profound insight on the manner and culture that people had and how they survived in the conditions of pre-revolutionary events. The personal tragedy of the main characters is very important in this context. It means that the books teaches how to behave in case of any personal emergency.
When reading the book, one may understand the development of the Chinese rural life. The poverty of the country and the tragedy of Cuicuis personal life create the atmosphere of grief to a certain extent. Therefore, this seems to be one of the reasons why Mao did not allow the book to be published. Furthermore, it is possible to assume that numerous details and the description of social processes, which happened in China of that time, were depicted truthfully enough. For instance, the author displays the life in rural China in the following way:
when water crept up over the street during a great springtime flood, the households… would extend long ladders from the eaves of their houses across the city wall. Cursing and shouting, theyd enter the city over the ladders, carrying cloth-wrapped bundles, bedrolls, and crocks of rice, than wait for the water to recede before coming back out of the city through the gate wall (Shen, 2009).
Hence, such a description helps learn that rural China was much poorer than its urban parts and the society in rural areas was not very prosperous. It makes one understand the circumstances of that time in the past and analyze the historical processes. In general, the book excited a very strong interest from me, as it unites all the most essential points, namely history, sociological perspective, interesting plot, among others. Thus, the book can be recommended to many different readers, especially for those who are fond of the history of China.