Monday, October 24, 2011

The Red Azalea by Anchee Min

We read this adult memoir for book club. The first part is when Anchee Min is a young girl and the Communists take over China. She describes the changes in their living conditions and how she is sent to a labor camp to work in the rice fields. Part 2 of the book is about the oppressive and hard-working atmosphere of life at the labor camp. Part three is when she is chosen to be trained as an actress. Ironically, it's not much better than the labor camp. Communist dogma frowned upon any type of individualism or expression of emotions. Min shows how she and others deal with this through opera, music, knitting, reading and more. The Red Azalea story that Min is supposed to be a movie star in is about Madam Mao who worked beside her husband to provide equal rights for women. This is far from the truth. The irony of the title becomes more and more apparent as the book moves to the climax.

I had to pick up this book twice. I really didn't like the beginning with the choppy writing and word choice. Dialogue is not in quotations and the plot doesn't flow particularly well. Things pick up in part two and the writing improves so that it isn't so jarring.  Min uses swear words throughout and she has a relationship with another woman at the labor camp. There is descriptions of  sex and a suicide.


:-) :-) 2.5 Smileys

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