Translated from the Chinese by Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and Carlos Rojas
Brothers is an epic story of life in modern China. At over 600 pages it was a daunting book to read, and took me over 6 weeks to reach the end, but it was well worth the effort.
Baldy Li and Song Gang are step-brothers, living in poverty in a small Chinese town. The book follows them as they grow up together, striving to make the most of their lives and bring themselves out of the cycle of poverty. I loved Baldy Li’s character – his entrepreneurial spirit warmed my heart and I was rooting for him throughout. As with all great characters he exhibited some flaws – his childish obsession with looking at women’s bottoms was very strange for me to read about, but I think it accurately reflected the thoughts of a teenage boy and so I felt that I understood him more as a result.
This book had many strange moments and contained things that you would never find in a typical western novel. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading books from other cultures, especially Asian ones – is that you never know what is going to happen next! I don’t want to say too much about the plot, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but Brothers has it all: tragedy, comedy and a touching, complex plot.
It is easy to read, but it’s length means that I would only recommend it to those who have already fallen in love with Asian literature and are looking for something with a bit more depth.
Note: This book isn’t for the prudish – it contained many sexually explicit scenes (including a very unusual section concentrating on hymens!) and some graphic violence.
I have never looked at the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008 before, but after the success of this book I am very intrigued.
Have you read any books shortlisted for this prize?
Do you love Asian literature?