Jan 28, 2009

Book review: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth in Beijing

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth
In this novel by Xiaolu Guo, Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth in Beijing, a restless young woman leaves her poor dusty village in Zhejiang province to find her fortune in Beijing, where she lands up working as an extra in the film industry.

Life in modern Beijing and modern China for a young woman, as she travels to Xian, the home of the terra cotta warriors, and to a poor city in Manchuria, where the last emperor Pu Yi lived as a virtual prisoner of the Japanese in the last days of the Qing Dynasty.

Like all Beijing residents from the countryside, she spends three days and nights on a train returning to her village for the Chinese New Year, where she eats "longevity noodles" and listens for several days to the sounds of firecrackers.

In her love life, there is a possessive young man in Beijing, who won't let go of the relationship as she moves out of his apartment and asserts her independence. A new American boyfriend doing research in China for his Ph.D. is part of her move to independence from tradition, but he returns home soon. We follow her hectic emotional journey till in the end she finally reaches the place she wants to be.

Beijing moving fast to modernize - shoddy buildings and garbage strewn alleys, and a changing culture.


  1. This looks pretty interesting. I have Shanghai Baby in my list, but this sounds like an even better read.

    Thanks for your review :)

  2. Mark: Guo also wrote about a Chinese student in England - A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which I also wrote about on this blog. I enjoyed Ravenous Youth more, however.

  3. I looked up Shanghai Baby, and see the plot is similar to Guo's book. Or maybe Guo's book is similar to the original, Shanghai Baby, but a bit more wholesome maybe.


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