Did I mention that I read an entire book while on the train from Beijing to Shanghai? While browsing at the Foreign Language Bookstore on in Beijing, I came across a copy of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Since my backpack was already overloaded with guidebooks, I really had no business buying another book, but this tiny paperback was whispering to me. After I learned that the plot revolved around a secret trunk of forbidden books, I knew I had to have it.
The tale begins in the summer of 1968, when two boys, both sons of doctors, are sent to a “re-education camp” during the height of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The story revolves around their friendship, the beautiful little seamstress and a mysterious collection of Western classics, hidden in a suitcase in the home of their friend “Four Eyes”. Anyone with a passion for literature will probably find this historical novel to be a quick and enjoyable read. (It’s perfect reading material for an all day train trip through China too!) Written by Dai Sijie, a Chinese filmmaker who has lived in France since 1984, a movie version of the book opened the Cannes Film Festival in 2002.