A Yi, Two Lives (2020)
This book made me feel all the feelings… but not those you’d want to feel. Doubt, upset, indifference, shock, anger, guilt… So I’m releasing all of them, and I decided today to leave this book DNF. It’s just not for me.
A Yi is the pseudonym for a Chinese writer, who used to work as a policeman and whose name is now in more than one list of the up-and-comings in contemporary Chinese fiction. I was tempted. “Tales of life, love and crime” (as the subtitle promises) ? Short stories? Stylish cover? Sign me up!
The doubt arose very soon because I really have no clue what I was reading for long stretches of the book. It made no sense to me. People talked, people went in and out of rooms, but I didn’t “get” it. I even started to doubt the stylish cover. What is this weird red-eyed furry blue animal exactly? Now, I’ve dealt with bizarre and grotesque in Chinese literature before. In fact, I rather enjoyed Ma Jian’s China Dream last year. But this one is another, rather chilling, animal.
After doubt came indifference. I didn’t manage to care for any character, but I’m not sure if it was expected from me, as the characters were not likeable. Actions seemed random, as were the sudden bursts of violence. It came so out of the blue that I was shocked. And then I was angry, because women were getting killed over nothing and I’m fed up with this kind of crap in literature (as in real life, but if I can avoid reading about fictional ones, that’s better). And then I felt guilty, because I possibly misunderstood the whole thing and it might be my fault… And the cycle started over again.
Another reader will probably enjoy it better than me. In fact, I’d love for someone to explain what I’d miss. But right now, I’ll just pass.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, for review consideration.