1971: Mao's cultural Revolution is at its peak. Two sons of doctors, sent to 're-education' camps, forced to carry buckets of excrement up and down mountain paths, have only their sense of humour to keep them going. Although the attractive daughter of the local tailor also helps to distract them from the task at hand. The boys' true re-education starts, however, when they discover a hidden suitcase packed with the great Western novels of the nineteenth century. Their lives are transformed. And not only their lives: after listening to the stories of Balzac, the little seamstress will never be the same again
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"A completely beguiling novel. always giving the reader a sense of being there. Very engaging"
Independent||"Wholly delightful, intelligent, funny and unexpected. A remarkable book, offering sheer delight"
Scotsman||"A simple story, seductively told, it touches and lifts up the beauty of human experience far beyond the mountains of Western China in which the story is set"
Times Literary Supplement||"Highly original and sweetly charming"
The Times||"If you read only one novel, choose this one: it's worth a hundred"