by Cao Wenxuan, Helen Wang (Goodreads Author) (Translator)
A little girl, Ah Mei, has a close relationship with her grandmother, Nainai. Although her grandmother is French, her grandfather is Chinese, and Ah Mei has grown up in Shanghai. In the 1960s Chinese Cultural Revolution, people in Shanghai begin to look at foreigners differently, and Ah Mei and her grandmother suffer persecution under the Communist regime.
What drew me to this book is that Ah Mei loves to play piano, and I am a pianist, so that aspect of the story was attractive to me. The scenes about the piano are really beautiful and lyrical.
The writing style is slow and thoughtful, taking time to appreciate beauty in nature and art. We get to hear all the little details of Ah Mei’s experience growing up in Shanghai, all the beauty and all the ugliness too as the Communists take over.
I enjoyed 90% of the book, and was swept away in the close affection of this lovely family. But then the ending happened.
My reason for a 1-star rating is the horrible ending. A character decides that they have suffered enough under the Communists, and decides to take their own life. This is tragic and horrifying, but the author treats it like a good thing, saying that this character chose to leave “in dignity.”
In this book, suicide is stylized as if it were something romantic and noble, when in reality it is cowardly and ugly. I can’t believe that this dangerous philosophic view-point is included in a children’s book! This is a dangerous idea to plant in someone’s mind, and I’m shocked that the publisher allowed it. It’s disgusting and sick. Suicide is never the answer, no matter what the circumstances may be.
I’m very disappointed in this book.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions expressed here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.