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Three Sisters Hardcover – August 9, 2010

3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With a mercilessly satirical eye, Bi (The Moon Opera) observes domestic and communal life in late 20th-century China as three of the seven daughters of Wang Lianfang strive for identity and self-respect. In 1971, when serial philanderer Wang is finally caught, he loses his job and the family loses face. Yumi, his eldest daughter, is forsaken by her fiancé and becomes the second wife to an older man in a nearby town. This is a step up, but her new home is no less a hothouse of gossip and suspicion. The third sister, beautiful Yuxiu, follows Yumi with big hopes that are derailed by an unexpected pregnancy. A decade later, youngest sister Yuyang is poised to escape a dreary fate when she's accepted by a school in Beijing, but she, too, has heartbreak in store. Bi describes with a sober bluntness the coarse brutality and familial and community power jockeying that plays out in villages where life is governed by strict rituals, superstition, and folk beliefs. Drawn with dispassionate candor, this is a bleak tale of human miseries and of women struggling to survive in a culture that devalues them. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

Set in China in the 1970s and 1980s, Bi’s novel follows three sisters from a small village. Yumi, Yuxiu, and Yuyang are three of the seven daughters of a lecherous Communist Party secretary who spends more time bedding other men’s wives than he does working. Disgusted by her father’s affairs, eldest daughter Yumi plots her escape through marriage. Her romance with a young aviator ends after two of her sisters are raped, leading Yumi to seek out a marriage with a much older government official. She’s perturbed when her beautiful, seductive younger sister Yuxiu, her reputation ruined after her rape, follows her to her new home and ingratiates herself with the sullen daughter of Yumi’s husband, Guo Jiaxing. The rivalry between the two sisters comes to a head when Yuxiu and Guo’s adult son fall in love. Though the novel loses steam in the final section, which focuses on the youngest sister Yuyang’s exploits at a teacher-training school, this is an involving look at the difficulties of women’s lives in Communist China. --Kristine Huntley

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780151013647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013647
  • ASIN: 0151013640
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,343,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu is a tragicomic novel, a tongue-in-cheek parody, about three sisters in the Wang family living in Wang Family Village in rural China. "Many rural villages are populated mainly by families with the same surname ." The novel opens in 1971 and ends in 1982. It is structured like three novellas though it is described by the publisher as a novel. The book's strength, and also its weakness, is that it is primarily comprised of character studies without a lot of plot. This can make it less accessible to some readers. Throughout the novel, the author utilizes Chinese proverbs, aphorisms and adages to make points. It comes out sounding something like a Greek chorus, adding a comic element to what is often heart-rending or calamitous. It is also very culture-specific which makes it harder to access for many readers.

The background is Maoist China following the Cultural Revolution. The position of women is lowly. They have no say in their lives except through subtle avenues where they can make small choices that may have a large impact on their lives and those in their community. This is often achieved by how a salutation is given, who is addressed and who is ignored, and what gossip is spread among them.

The book opens in 1971 with the story of Yumi, the oldest sister in the Wang family. The family is comprised of seven daughters and one son. Yumi's mother has given up the care of her son to Yumi who takes her brother around the village with pride as though she were his mother. In essence, she is the head of her family. Her father is a philanderer and a drunk who has the job of commune-secretary. He falls from grace when an affair he is having with the wife of an active duty soldier comes to light. This impacts Yumi's marriage plans.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A very adult rated book that explores human lust, sexual awareness blooming in young adults, the intricacy of the Chinese culture of your standing in society marred by the stance of the Chinese revolution under Chairman Mao. Although the exact period is not spelt out in the novel, but you get a sense the people's revolution has been in place for a while, late 70's to early 80's, where the story follows one family, the Wang family, and the story really explores in depth the three of seven daughters: Yumi: the eldest, the one who had the responsibility of looking after the family and siblings and how her quick mind maneuvered to ensure the family's face is saved in on so many occasions because of her father's wondering eyes and her third sister who shared the same `wild' genes; Yuxiu: the third daughter who is her father's favorite daughter has to deal with the humiliation of an event that is considered a big no-no for Chinese girls, and then having to show humiliation when she escapes to live with Yumi, who has resurrected her life as a married woman to a senior general. Then you have the seventh daughter (7 girls and the 8th was the boy), Yuying: who managed to be blessed to have none of the responsibilities of her older sisters and was able to attend an elite school for budding teachers. Her tale follows her through the communist part approach to loyalty to the party, the need to sneak on each other that lead to the discovery of a relationship between student and teacher!
I am not sure whether it was the intention of the author to depict how women are treated in Chinese society as third class citizens or whether it reflects his unconscious thought due to his own up bringing?
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book tells the stories of three sisters in a Chinese family of seven sisters and one brother. The story of Yumi, the eldest sister was great. She was such an interesting character who took a stand against her father's philandering. This section of the book brought in the family dynamics and really showed how the village worked which was hilarious. That section gets 5 stars. The second section was about the third sister, Yuxio, who after being gang raped, wants to escape the gossip of the village. This portion was not quite as complelling but still enjoyable and the family connection continued. Four stars for that one.

The last section about the sister who went to teachers' school was like a completely different book. The family and other sisters was not referenced at all, but the part that bothered me most was that the book just stopped. By that I mean, it didn't 'end' it just stopped. I looked for the next page, the next paragraph but that was it. Totally abrupt. No tie in to the rest of the book. No hint of a wrap up. Like the author got interrupted in his writing and never came back.

I was also a little confused how or why he picked these three sisters out of the seven to choose from and what about the brother. It didn't make sense to me that the other siblings were barely mentioned. Were these three sisters more interesting than the rest? Why even have the other sisters if you're just going to ignore them--just make the family have three sisters.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the writing in the book and the individiual stories . . . I just didn't think they were put together right for a book. Either take out the third section or tie it in to the rest . . . and give us stories of all the siblings. But the main reason I gave this three stars was because of the infuriating ending . . . or I just say the infuriating lack of an ending.
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