Monday, 9 April 2018

Someone To Talk To by Liu Zhenyun

Someone To Talk To by Liu Zhenyun
First published in Chinese as Yi ju ding yi wan ju in China in 2009. English language translation by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-Chun published by Duke University Press on the 30th March 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £17.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £16.36 (PB)
Waterstones : from £17.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £13.16 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Tofu peddler Yang Baishun is a man of few words and few friends. Unable to find meaningful companionship, he settles for a marriage of convenience. When his wife leaves him for another man he is left to care for his five-year-old stepdaughter Qiaoling, who is subsequently kidnapped, never to be seen by Yang again.

Seventy years later we find Niu Aiguo, who, like Yang, struggles to connect with other people. As Niu begins learning about his recently deceased mother’s murky past it becomes clear that Qiaoling is the mysterious bond that links Yang and Niu.

Originally published in China in 2009 and appearing in English for the first time, Liu Zhenyun’s award-winning Someone to Talk To highlights the contours of everyday life in pre- and post-Mao China, where regular people struggle to make a living and establish homes and families. Meditating on connection and loneliness, community and family, Someone to Talk To traces the unexpected and far-reaching ramifications of seemingly inconsequential actions, while reminding us all of the importance of communication.

Unfortunately I gave up reading Someone To Talk To after 10%. I felt as though a new character was being introduced every couple of paragraphs, but with no chance to start to get to know any of them so the novel was becoming a procession of names with no context. Someone To Talk To is considered to be Liu Zhenyun's masterpiece and won the Mao Dun literary prize so other readers will probably get on with it better than I did, but this book just wasn't for me.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Liu Zhenyun / Contemporary fiction / Books from China


  1. Sorry this was a disappointing read for you! I hope your next book is better. It's really hard to follow books where you can't keep track of what's going on!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. Yes, I don't often get books that I just cannot read. Fortunately I've read a couple of brilliant books since - reviews here soon :-)

  2. Wow, one star, that's tough! Maybe it's just a bad translation.. Chinese books tend to have a special angle about them because of the language. But I've also read awarded books and didn't understand what the big deal is, so it happens to everyone :D

    1. This one and me just weren't suited. It was a NetGalley so I am hoping a few other bloggers might have picked it out for review. Then I can see if my dislike is me being contrary!

  3. Agh, I am so sorry you didn't like this one! Sometimes there are just too many characters to get used to it and it isn't working out at all :D

    1. I started this twice and failed to get into it both times. I am proud of myself for not stubbornly ploughing through regardless though. I'm learning it's OK to DNF!


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