The Shanghai Dolls book club has been going since May 2009, when about eight of us held the inaugural meeting at Julia’s apartment. This was the first time I [Carole] met the Dolls. Many books were suggested and we eventually decided on the first three (one book per month), the main influencing factor being their availability, what with this being China! Since then the Dolls Book Club has been held every month at different venues around Shanghai.
From now on, I’ll post a monthly review of the book that we’ve just read. You are welcome to comment with your own reviews and impressions about the books. Feel free to post a review of any book you read and would like to recommend to other Dolls.
There’s a wide range of literary tastes in the Dolls Book Club, so it’s a great way to try out a genre that you might not normally go for. Book Club meetings are listed on Dolls Events Page. The usual way of things is lots of chat, catching up, drinking of wine and then “oh, we should talk about the book!”. All pretty informal.
Apart from the fake books from the street carts and some DVD shops, book suppliers/shops are listed in the Books Stores category in Dolls Directory.
Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.
A unanimous verdict – it’s really, really good. Even at over 500 pages it’s a quick read as you get so engrossed in the story that you just don’t want to put it down. Most of us found the Vanger mystery much more absorbing than the financial corruption storyline though this is interwoven very well. Larsson’s storytelling and descriptions aren’t hampered at all by the translation – from the great character portrayals to the Swedish setting to the horrific sexual violence and murders. Looking forward to reading The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second of this Millennium trilogy.
Next book club meeting:Thursday 2 Dec - The Help by Kathryn Stockett
“There was nothing to do at home, so I went out. This is how a migrant story begins.”
China has 130 million migrant workers, the largest migration in human history. Chang tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines in the industrial city of Dongguan. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monk-like devotion, and back to a farming village, revealing the poverty and idleness that drive girls to leave home in the first place.
Having never read anything on this topic I found Factory Girls to be a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of China’s migrant workers. It was particularly interesting for one book clubber who regularly visits factories as part of her job; though another book clubber felt that there are other better books on the subject (could you write the names of these books in the comments section?). It focuses on two workers, Min and Chunming, telling us of their dreams and aspirations, their drive and determination to better themselves.
After my last suggestion of The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing – a feminist tract spanning over 600 pages – this time I went for a slim novel of just 107 pages. It was shortlisted for the “Lost Booker Prize” and it sounded intriguing and funny – a prim & proper accountant heading off on holiday looking for wild adventures and sex. I didn’t expect it to turn into such a dark tale.
We meet Lise as she shrieks and shouts at a poor sales assistant just because she tells her that the dress she is trying on is made from stain resistant material – “Do you think I spill things on my clothes?...Do I look as if I don’t eat properly?” You know from the very beginning that she’s a bit unhinged. She eventually buys the garish dress complete with a clashing summer coat and sets off for her holiday of a lifetime. Along the way she meets equally oddball characters striking up bizarre relationships with each. And quoting from the back cover :
"…her search for adventure, sex and the obsessional experience takes on a far darker significance as she heads on a journey of self-destruction. Infinity and eternity attend Lise’s last terrible day in an unnamed southern city, as she meets her fate."
Everyone enjoyed the book. It’s so fleeting, clever and tightly plotted. And after some of the comments and insights from the book club girls, I really need to go back and reread it! Though I promise next time I'll choose a rom-com!
World War Terminus has left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalks, in search of the renegade androids who are his prey. When he’s not 'retiring' them, he dreams of owning a live animal -- the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick gets his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 androids, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things are never that simple, and his assignment quickly turns into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit -- and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted ...
The film Blade Runner is based on this sci-fi novel, which I saw many years ago and had forgotten the plot. Reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, I didn’t recognise the story and many of the main elements. Then after watching the film again I realised why – it’s a very different entity altogether.
At the book club meeting the majority of the chat was about how different the book and the film were. The book explores themes such as radioactive dust and genetic deterioration, mood machines which are commonplace, a religion called Mercerism, ownership of real animals instead of electric ones. The film doesn’t go into these ideas and the characters are quite different. Instead it focuses on Deckard’s quest to “retire” the replicants (as they are called in the film), and on his relationship with Rachael – a Nexus-6. Both the book and the film have been hugely influential in the sci-fi genre since their publication/release in 1968 and 1982 respectively. I really enjoyed them both and would definitely recommend them – even for non sci-fi fans!
BTW – the edition with the Blade Runner cover includes a fascinating insight into how the book became the film and Dick’s reactions to its transformation.
Next meeting is Thursday 26 August – venue to be decided (will put on events page).
Next books are:
August: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
September: Factory Girls by Leslie T.Chang
October: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson
For a recap on the previous book club books click here.
Inspired by a true story‚ A Most Immoral Woman is a surprising‚ witty and erotic tale of sexual and other obsessions set in the 'floating world′ of Westerners in China and Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. At its heart stands an original and devastatingly honest woman‚ as seen from the perspective of the extraordinary man who was drawn to love her.
It's 1904 in China, a time of political instability as Russia and Japan fight it out for domination over northeast China. Australian George Ernest Morrison is Peking correspondent for The Times and is fighting it out himself, trying to untangle and interpret the truth from the propaganda about what is happening in the frequent battles.At 42, the handsome Morrison is dissolute, bored with life and himself, tired of his state of bachelorhood but unable to find a woman who challenges and excites him.Life changes abruptly with the arrival of Mae Perkins, the feisty daughter of a Californian millionaire. They begin a passionate affair but Morrison is at first unbelieving, then dismayed to discover that the beautiful Mae refuses to be constrained by the morals of the time or her perceived place in society as a woman. She is sensual, uninhibited and open about indulging her passion with whomever she chooses ("I make no pretence of propriety. Propriety interests me not in the least!").
Reviewed by www.couriermail.com.au
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