Monday, July 7, 2008

20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

Title: 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth
Author: Xiaolu Guo
Publisher: Random House

20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth. An unusual title for an unusual book.

Xiaolu Guo tells the story of Fenfang, a peasant class girl in China who leaves her potato growing village to move to the bright lights, big city of Beijing in search of fame and fortune as an extra actress.

A disastrous romantic life, interfering “cocks and hens” for neighbours, a continuous diet of instant noodles and jobs with titles like “girl on bridge pushing bike” characterises Fenfang’s life as she struggles to find her way in life and in her nation’s capital. But as frustrating as her career prospects may be, life is infinitely better in Beijing than in her home village which Fenfang is reminded of when she takes a trip home at Chinese New Year.

A short read at just 200 pages long, it is also not one that is likely to linger with you for long. Fenfang, while astute in her observations on life in China, witty and likeable is not, however all that memorable. Written ten years ago but only published now, 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth - despite its unusual, eye-catching title one of those books you will read but instantly forget the moment you return it to your shelf. It is a real shame as Xiaolu Guo is capable of so much more as evidenced in her stunning debut novel Village of Stone.

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