Shanghai in the mid-1990s is a city caught between reverence for the past and fascination with a tantalizing, market-driven present. When the body of a young "national model worker," revered for her adherence to the principles of the Communist Party, turns up in a canal, Chen is thrown into the midst of these opposing forces. As he struggles to unravel the hidden threads of this paragon's life, he finds himself challenging the very political forces that have guided his life since birth. With party-line-spouting superiors above him and detectives who resent his quick promotion beneath him, Chen finds himself wondering whether justice is a concept at all meaningful in late-20th-century China.
Death of a Red Heroine is a book hovering uneasily between the spheres of fiction and fact, creativity and didacticism. For much of the novel, author Qiu Xiaolong seems more intent on driving home the actions and consequences of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath than on the slowly unfolding plot. Tedious repetitions of the fates, under Mao, of "educated youths" joust with both the actions of the detectives and Chen's "poetic" ruminations, which, unfortunately, are infected by precisely the stiffness and arbitrariness Qiu is at pains to decry in his historical passages. The moving couplets Chen favors are potentially fascinating insights into the interaction between ancient and modern China, but instead of provoking the reader into reflection, Qiu offers reductive explanations of each and every poem.
The moments when Qiu concentrates on invoking atmosphere are both illuminating and rewarding: Detective Yu's wife's pride and pleasure in having brought home a dozen crabs at "state price" are movingly well crafted, all the more so because Qiu seems almost unaware of what he is doing. Rather than lecturing on the economic dilemmas of the modern worker, he lets Peiqin's simple happiness speak for itself. In the last quarter of the book, Qiu seems to find his stride, though his writing style remains undeniably awkward. Here Chen expands and relaxes, and with him, the novel. Qiu's debut, though anything but polished, holds the promise of better things to come. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Great depiction of life and mores in China around 1990. A complex story of politics, poetry, love and food. An engaging read.Published 25 days ago by Walter F. Baumgartner
After reading this, I am reading the rest of the series. Chen is a great protagonist, but I love the secondary characters, too, especially Yu and his wife, even Party Secretary Li,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Elizabeth B.
Tedious with too much detail. Lost interest and flipped to the end after 200+ pagesPublished 1 month ago by jdp
For 8 years, I lived and worked in China. I arrived 2 years after the time of this book's action. However, Qui's story evokes my first years teaching English in a Nanjing... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
I had a limited time to read the book before a review was to be given and my reactions were biased on the lack of time to enjoy it.Published 1 month ago by M. Bretscher
A lovely, poetic, simple look at emerging China in the early 1990s. Insightful and engaging, enlightening this is the beginning of a delightful series.Published 2 months ago by Sara Creekmore
Excellent story set in a city of intrigue and sometimes special status. Qiu brings the nuances of living in a changing and conflicted society into focus for Westerners and expat... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Spud's Place
Disappointing as a crime novel. A couple of stars for the education on today's life in China. Read to understand the failures of socialism and Chinese poverty. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Gusto