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Brothers by Da Chen


by Da Chen

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This novel is set in mid-20th century China during the transition between the rule of Chairman Mao and his immediate successors. It follows the lives of two young men, the sons of a prominent Chinese general, one legitimate, raised in all the opulence of upper class Beijing, the other illegitimate and raised in peasant squalor.


The writing is very simple and the story is in no way unique. My biggest problem is with the utter absurdity of the premise and many of the subsequent events. For example, the illegitimate son is born as his disgraced mother is in the process of committing suicide by jumping off of a sheer cliff; literally, as in evacuating the birth canal in mid-air. The baby survives, believe it or not by becoming hung in tree branches. Okay.

Even more absurd is the fact that in a nation of one billion people, the two brothers, separated by thousands of miles, actually meet and fall in love with the same orphaned young woman. Really.

This young woman, the heroine of the novel, is brutally gang raped. Immediately thereafter, and I mean immediately, she has ardent and passionate sexual intercourse with her rescuer. I’m not joking. I don’t know who Da Chen is, but pretty clearly he is a clueless male.

Perhaps equally as absurd is the rapidity and ease by which one of the characters goes from being a penniless beggar to the richest man in China in the space of about five years, owning hundreds of businesses, all of which are wildly successful from the start.

This is a book so absurd that it was impossible for me to enjoy reading it. I actually became disgusted at the extent to which the author took his readers for clueless simpletons. Some have used the term magical realism to describe the author’s writing. This is not magical realism. It only seems like it because the author’s story lines are so absurd and ridiculous. Leave this one for the Harlequin crowd. ( )
  santhony | Nov 6, 2013 |
Superb family saga of rivalry and love set during the Cultural Revolution. ( )
  Limelite | Nov 23, 2012 |
I read this book over two years ago. Maybe three. What I wanted to impart in this review was how this book has stayed with me and while I just read a scathing review of this book I would recommend it. My memory of it is not very clear but I do know I enjoyed it and found it very moving and unexpected. ( )
  thebooky | Jun 16, 2011 |
local author ( )
  HudsonValleyReaders | May 19, 2008 |
Great book on all levels! The juxtaposition between the two protagonists is fantastic. You feel hatred, love, and sorrow for all the characters at one time or another throughout the twisted storyline. Brilliant book! One of the, if not the, best book I have read this year. ( )
  Djupstrom | Apr 21, 2008 |
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To my baba and my uncle, Wen Yuan Chen.
Two brothers separated for forty years by one Cold War.
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To tell the tale of my birth, I must start not from the beginning, but from the end to my beginning.
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Two half brothers born to a powerful general, one to the general's wife and one to his mistress, know nothing of each others existence. One is driven to glorify his father, the other wants revenge.

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