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Bronze and Sunflower Paperback – April 2, 2015
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This quiet and gentle story woven through with thoughtfulness and bright love will stay with me a long time. -- Zoe Toft * Playing By the Book * The story successfully crosses the cultural divide and young readers will find it engrossing. * The Tribune * However old you are, this book will expand your horizons. * A Year of Reading the World * The perilous life of rural China is meticulously documented in this stunning, slow novel set in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution. * Inis Reading Guide * It is a rare treat to come across a book that you want to keep with you for days after reading, to dip into again at leisure, be it for the beauty of the writing, the resonance of the story, or the luminosity of the imagery. Such a book is Bronze and Sunflower. * Children's Books Ireland * ...Sticking with international books, but in an entirely different vein (though likewise pretty special), there's the heart-warming Chinese novel Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, in a translation by Helen Wang. It's a lyrical, engaging story [...] set during the Cultural Revolution, which began in China in 1966, but the story feels somehow timeless, too. * The Independent *
About the Author
Cao Wenxuan is one of China's most important children's writers and is widely considered the country's most subtle and philosophical, often referred to as China's very own Hans Christian Andersen. He is a professor of Chinese literature at Peking University, and has in turn taught some of China's best young writers. Many of his books have been bestsellers, including Thatched Cottage and Red Gourd, and his work has been translated into French, Russian, Japanese, Korean and English. Cao has won several of China's most prestigious awards for children's literature, including the Song Qingling and Bing Xin prizes, and is current winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award.Helen Wang has a BA Hons in Chinese from SOAS and is currently a Curator of East Asian Money at the British Museum. She has written and edited numerous books and articles and has been translating from Chinese to English for nearly 25 years, including, for children, Jackal and Wolf by SHEN Shixi and Pai Hua Zi and the Clever Girl by Zhang Xinxin. She lives with her family in north London.
Top customer reviews
This book introduced me to some Chinese history that I was not aware of, namely the Cadre School movement of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s-1970s. But that is only a small part of the backdrop, and everything else about this book is completely relatable to every person on this planet. [Also, did you know about the ancient carvings at the real-life Damaidi area in China? I had never heard of this set, which is apparently very large and possibly contains the oldest on the planet. However, this is clearly not the Damaidi of Bronze and Sunflower's life, because it's at least a thousand miles away from the region of our tale. The children's village is an almost-coastal locale and must be in the rural region somewhere near Shanghai's northern outreaches.]
The translation is expertly handled, allowing English readers to be pulled into the life of Damaidi and the characters to be burrowed into your heart. I will comment that there was one incomplete sentence on the second page that made me wonder if my reading would keep being interrupted by irritating grammatical problems, but this was the sole appearance. Definitely do not let that deter you from reading this book if you pick it up and start skimming to see if you'd like to take it home.
The ending may be different from what some people might want, but I see it as one that provides several different outcomes that otherwise would not be possible, including further blossoming of a very special, soulful relationship. I hope there are sequels to this book, and I wish that more of Wenxuan's works were translated for us to enjoy
The story takes place during the Cultural Revolution, although this event is only relevant at the beginning of the story when Sunflower's father, a city artist "sent down" to the farms, passes away. What follows is a very intimate and naturalistic view of life. Sunflower and her stepbrother Bronze become inseparable friends, passing time mostly in the fields and rice paddies, trying to help their family. Readers get images of school, rural life, and unfortunate disasters. Readers meet several characters in the book, including their matriarch grandmother, a snobby family in the village, and even the family's buffalo, which is a character unto itself. There are many lovely descriptions about natural history, farming practices, and village life.
Most current literature about the Cultural Revolution is in the form of memoirs from city people who were "sent down." This is one of the only books to focus on rural people in China, those who make up the overwhelming majority of the country. In that sense, the book is somewhat apolitical. I don't believe there is any mention of the Communist Party, unlike in other books, and there is very little mention of any political machinery or hierarchies.
The book flows easily. It is written for younger readers, perhaps middle school students, but it has had a good impression on me. The translator, Helen Wang, has done a fabulous job and deserves tremendous credit. Ultimately, we have a powerful story about rural life and family.