Book: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

After reading this book, I really want to watch the movie.


I know that movie adaptations of books are usually not as good as the book. But the images that the book conjured in my mind, the scenes that played before my eyes. I need to see them in real life. I need to watch this book unfold.

This short novel is an homage to the impact books and literature can have on people. In the midst of the cultural revolution two boys from the city are sent into the mountain villages for re-education. There, they are cut off from the ‘civilized’ world, forced to do hard and demeaning labour. Yet they manage to enjoy their years there, and along the way they meet Balzac. Balzac is a French author that moulds the minds of these two young lads. It shows them a larger world than the one they live and introduces to love and society and the life that they are missing out on. Add to the a beautiful girl in the form of the Chinese seamstress and we have a love story unfolding before our eyes. When they find a suitcase full of western novels, their world changes. Their love changes. Their perspective on life changes. It truly is where there re-education begins.

My favourite part of the novel was when the narrator describes his experience of telling the story of the Count of Monte Cristo to the tailor. It was a magical moment, reliving the story not as words on a page but as being spoken to. It’s very different and tremendously special to me.

My only gripe with the book was that towards the end, there were a few chapters that were stylistically very different from the rest of the book. They do further the story, but I don’t understand why it was necessary to write the story in that way. It felt very disruptive and unnatural. If anyone can shed some light on that, please do!

All in all, I enjoyed the book, it was educational to say the very least.

2 Responses to “Book: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress”
  1. Genki Jason says:

    I watched the film a long time ago. I remember the ending and the fact that the film is very beautiful but not much else. I see the book floating around my local library but I have never taken it out on loan. I might have to do so now.

    • everworld says:

      I’m not surprised that the film would be beautiful. I think it helps that it was aside in the mountainside of China. Ooh, but now I’m not sure if I should watch the film. I think my expectations right now are just a tad high.

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