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Big Breasts and Wide Hips: A Novel (Arcade Classics) by [Yan, Mo]
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Big Breasts and Wide Hips: A Novel (Arcade Classics) Kindle Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ripe with spectacular detail and unflinching in its portrayal of the Shangguan family, this latest saga by Mo Yan (Red Sorghum) is a lavish feast for the senses sprawling across several decades and political regimes in 20th-century China's quasi-fictional North Gaomi region. Mo Yan's writing is bold and sometimes flinty as it draws humor from the direst of sources, and the story—the elaborate, fleet and episodic plot—is arresting and satisfying. The book opens as two creatures struggle to give birth: Shangguan Lu, the beleaguered mother of seven daughters, and the family donkey, who ends up getting the wealth of aid and sympathy from Lu's mother-in-law. It's a revealing scene that effectively lays out the themes of Mo Yan's brutal, inspired work and suggests the significance of its title: in a harsh environment like rural China where survival is not guaranteed but a privilege fought for every day, humans, and especially women, have only their bodies and their animal instincts to depend on, with fate often stepping in to play a cruel hand. However, this doesn't stop the daughters of grimly resolute Lu from developing into a clan of steely-eyed women who throughout the book make choices and meet destinies that are at turns heartening, vicious and breathtaking. Most of the book is narrated by Jintong, the weak and spoiled son who breast-feeds well into childhood, provoking derision and disgust from his sisters. His lack of stature makes him a compelling narrator, a frontline observer who is invested in the outcomes but always something of an outsider. The constant violence, rendered in Mo Yan's powerhouse prose, may make this too graphic a read for some, but those who are able to see the violence for what it is—an undeniable aspect of rural Chinese life—will find this a deeply rewarding book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Chinese writer Yan is both revered and reviled for his blistering takes on modern China' s political landscape. (His acclaimed 1987 novel, Red Sorghum, was adapted into a major motion picture).This latest controversial epic, spanning the country's blood-splattered twentieth century, is set in fictional Northeast Gaomi County and narrated by fair-haired Jintong, the ninth child (and first son) of an indomitable woman known only as Mother. (Jintong's siblings all have different fathers, none of them Mother's impotent blacksmith husband.) Fathered by the town's Swedish pastor, spoiled Jintong takes full advantage of his role as the family's only male; at the age of seven, he still suckles at his mother's breast. In Yan's world, men are cowardly while women are admired for their courage and curves. His images run the gamut, from brutal renderings of war to a bizarre transformation of human to bird. The novel is, above all, a paean to the power of the female sex, but its voluptuous title scarcely reflects its tone. This is a haunting, daunting read that seldom loosens its gloomy grip. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1541 KB
  • Print Length: 564 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; Reissue edition (December 12, 2011)
  • Publication Date: December 12, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NZ9XZO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Setting this monumental family saga in rural Gaomi, in northeast China, where he grew up, Mo Yan vividly portrays political and historical events--most of them bloody--over the course of the twentieth century, from the Boxer Rebellion through the Communist Revolution, the Japanese invasion, the Cultural Revolution, and the death of Mao. Jintong, the only son of Shangguan Lu, tells the story of his remarkable mother, his eight sisters, and their families as they live through these seminal events.

Shangguan Lu's early marriage and domestic life unfolds through flashbacks. With an infertile husband, whose family beats and abuses her for failing to produce a son, she resorts to extreme measures, giving birth to eight daughters by eight different fathers before finally producing a male heir. The stories of the daughters and their marriages to men with varied political agendas reflect the history of twentieth century rural China, and its unconscionable atrocities, starvation, death from exposure, forced marches, and land seizures.

Author Mo Yan, who lived through the major events depicted here, gives a thorough portrait of rural life during these historical crises. The author's style, while often exciting, is also brutally realistic. Precise physical descriptions help bring the culture and people to life, including the kind of clothing nursing mothers wear so they can feed their children in very cold weather, descriptions of the silent "snow market," and facts and figures about the minimum amount of grain needed per person to keep farm workers alive for the harvest season. But the author also uses satire, wry comments, and black humor to criticize totalitarian governments and closed societies.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mo Yan, the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, writes in "Big Breasts and Wide Hips" about the journey of one Chinese family from 1900 to the 1990's. Along the way there is plenty of death, suffering, and breastfeeding. Like most great novels, this is the story of one family, and through this family Mo Yan tells the story of the resiliency of the Chinese woman.

The matriarch of the family is born in 1900 and narrowly escapes death from Westerners attempting to put down the Boxer Rebellion. Indestructible Mother sees the fall of the last Chinese dynasty, the rise of the Communists, and has eight daughters before finally siring an infantile and spoiled first son (the narrator of the story). Along the way she endures foot-binding, rape, domestic abuse, overwork, and the deaths of so many around her that they start to lack meaning. In that respect, it is reminiscent of "The Kindly Ones" by Jonathan Littell; there is so much blood on these pages that you might start to get used to it.

Mo Yan's writing is lyrical, energetic, and the metaphors are inventive and at times hilarious. His powerful voice is what will keep you entranced as the mind-numbing waves of misery wash over the family. And we've got a lot of misery - there's suicide, murder, famine, and the unending struggle of Chinese peasants teetering on the edge of life and death. In the end, it is strength and sacrifice of the maligned and "powerless" women of the story, especially Mother, that resonated with me as the force that drives China forward.

So, if you're picking this book up because you heard about Mo Yan, be prepared for gruesome, endless violence and repeated descriptions of breasts and breastfeeding - the narrator is a more spoiled and unlikable version of Buster from "Arrested Development.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Who would enjoy reading this tale of Jintong's passage to a modern citizen of a modern China? Not a reader of adventures, or romance, or mystery, or history, or politics, or biography, or sci-fi, but rather a reader able to compress all of those motivations into one.

Mo Yan's literary style will put some readers' teeth on edge at time and some will wish his unbelievable mastery of description would relent a bit at other times.
Not an easy read, but if you have a bit of knowledge of the torturous road China has followed since its occupation by Japan in the 1930's, to the civil war, to the long march through Mao and his successors Mo Yan will show you how all that might have buffered a village mother seeking a demanded son, and all her offspring, and their offspring up to the glossy shine of a northern internal town. Mo lays bear the human and inhuman turmoil that one might endure and the ebbs and flow of legitimacy, and yet seems to be just revealing the unrelenting thirst of a somewhat insatiable male.

Remember to reflect that Mo Yan is in essence revealing life as it was in his home county and honoring a glorious mother figure while holding to the strange Chinese unspoken belief in ghost and demons. Yes, a good read by the most recent Nobel Laureate of Literature!
An aside; the seven daughters' names preceding the son Jintong, Laidi, Zaodi, Lingdi, Xiangdi, Pandi, Niandi, Qiudi translates as:
Come Brother, Try to find Brother, Look for Brother, Desire Brother, Hope for Brother, Miss Brother, and Request Brother.
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