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Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu
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Three Sisters

by Bi Feiyu (Author)

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Great narrative, very vivid description of the human nature and social constraints in China during the Cultural Revolution, but the ending somehow feels unfinished and not in tune with the rest of the book. ( )
  Dominique_A | Oct 26, 2013 |
A struggle.

This was a slow read - a really slow read! I found the writing style painfully awkward, possibly due to the translation, possibly due to the fact that this is a book written in a Chinese dialect for a Chinese audience. It just didn't seem to be going anywhere. Having said that, and having been to a book group to discuss the book, I now feel that, retrospectively, Three Sisters did have quite a lot to offer, I just needed help to interpret it.

Yumi, Yuxiu and Yuyang are the three sisters; although there are seven sisters in all, the others warrant barely a mention.
The narrative begins in 1971 with the birth of the first boy after 7 girls. Yumi, the eldest sister, has taken over the running of the home as her mother abandons all responsibility now that she has finally given birth to a boy.
This first section illustrates the profound difference between the family protected by the father, Wang Lianfang, as Party Secretary and then, as they become nobodies, once he loses his position by taking his philandering too far. (It seems that messing with the wife of a soldier is unforgivable, while lesser wives are fair game).
Yumi is a strong character and determined to let the women her father was sleeping with, know what she thought of them. In spite of her young age, these women shrink before her - until everything changes and Yumi must compromise and settle for a lesser future.

The third sister, Yuxiu, is less well described. She is beautiful and knows it. But life completely changes for her too, with her father's fall from grace. She is manipulating and devious, but this is not enough. There are some interesting interactions between these two sisters, but neither are ultimately happy.

The story of the youngest sister, Yuyang, takes place ten years later. She is very intelligent, studies hard, and has earned herself a place at teacher training college. Here she is encouraged to spy on her fellow students and is not in a position to refuse.
This was a much weaker section. Yuyang didn't seem to be going anywhere, largely because her options as a country girl were severely limited. She is just another woman trying to take control of her own destiny, in spite of her low position in society and the other selfish students, all out to better themseles at others' expense.

The book is made up of three rather disjointed narratives - there is little to tie the three stories together, particularly the last one - and then, with no warning, the book just stopped... ( )
  DubaiReader | Sep 27, 2011 |
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. ( )
  CatheOlson | Jun 28, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Feiyu, BiAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldblatt, HowardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151013640, Hardcover)

In a small village in China, the Wang family has produced seven sisters in its quest to have a boy; three of the sisters emerge as the lead characters in this remarkable novel. From the small-town treachery of the village to the slogans of the Cultural Revolution to the harried pace of city life, Bi Feiyu follows the women as they strive to change the course of their destinies and battle against an “infinite ocean of people” in a China that does not truly belong to them. Yumi will use her dignity, Yuxiu her powers of seduction, and Yuyang her ambition—all in an effort to take control of their world, their bodies, and their lives.

Like Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, and J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, Three Sisters transports us to and immerses us in a culture we think we know but will understand much more fully by the time we reach the end. Bi’s Moon Opera was praised by the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and other publications. In one review Lisa See said: “I hope this is the first of many of Bi’s works to come to us.” Three Sisters fulfills that wish, with its irreplaceable portrait of contemporary Chinese life and indelible story of three tragic and sometimes triumphant heroines.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:35 -0400)

Growing up in a post-Cultural Revolution-era Chinese village, three sisters among seven strive to change the course of their destinies by embracing respective views about dignity, seduction, and ambition.

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