Tuesday, November 3, 2009

unrelenting gloom

I try to be an eclectic reader, often requesting books after a review piques my interest. The last book I read was so completely, totally and absolutely devoid of any happiness that I am thinking I need to revise my strategy!

The book was small (only 119 pages) with a lovely photograph of a Chinese opera singer's face, made up with the traditional white and red make-up. Physically, it was a beautiful book. But the story....

The moon opera by Bi Feiyu was translated from Chinese and the translator did a lovely job with the poetry and rhythm of the author's writing. Xiao Yanqui is an opera singer, singing the lead female part in a new opera. Though she insists she felt no jealousy, in a moment of anger she disfigured the face of her understudy by throwing hot/boiling water at her. Her career ruined, Xiao Yanqui went on to teach music, marry a man she did not love and have a child for whom she feels little or no affection. Twenty years pass and a wealthy businessman offers to fund a production of The Moon Opera with the stipulation that Xiao Yanqui, now in her 40s and past her prime in looks, sing the lead. Since her voice is still lovely and supple, Xiao Yanqui agrees to sing, taking one of her students as an understudy (doesn't that girl know about Xiao Yanqui's past problems with understudies?). Severe weight loss, an unwise and unprotected affair with the businessman, an abortion all lead to Xiao Yanqui's downfall and her failure in the opera.

By the end of the book, I was as limp as a wet handkerchief. There was not one moment of real happiness or contentment in this book. It was beautifully written and an emotional wasteland. Sad, sad, sad.

1 comment:

Librarian D.O.A. said...

Yikes! that sounds depressing. I try to only find things with reasonably happy endings.