Seven stories, seven whispers into the ears of life: A Yi’s unexpected twists of crime burst from the everyday, with glimpses of romance distorted by the weaknesses of human motive. A Yi employs his forensic skills to offer a series of portraits of modern life, both uniquely Chinese, and universal in their themes.
I don’t read a lot of short stories but often wished I did, so was pleased to participate in the blogtour for Two Lives.
Now usually the short stories I do read are from U.K. or American authors, hence a Chinese author was going to be something quite different.
Different wouldn’t necessarily be the words I would use to describe Yi’s stories. They were complex, a myriad of themes that challenged the reader, at times required concentration.
He explored the traditions of Chinese family life, the need to marry well, to produce a son, to be a good wife, a good daughter or son.
Yi showed that life didn’t always go to plan, that the face we showed on the outside was not necessarily what was happening on the inside or out of sight. Each of his characters hid a secret, secrets that Yi exposed through events, tragedy or more intriguingly through crime. His background as a former police officer served him well, none more so than in my favourite story Attic, the final reveal a big surprise.
Other stories saw characters search for inner peace, for something other than what they already had as Yi showcased in Bach. Ba Like’s journey was one of soul searching, of rejecting what he had for something less.
The stories were varied, diverse, some easier to grasp the concepts than others, more of a cultural difference than anything else. I have to say I enjoyed them, found Yi’s style interesting and individual, but isn’t that what literature is all about, to challenge, to question. If you don’t read them all you will not be disappointed.
I would like to thank Flame Tree Press for a copy of Two Lives and to Anne Cater for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
A Yi (author) is a celebrated Chinese writer living in Beijing. He worked as a police officer before becoming editor-in- chief of Chutzpah, an avant garde literary magazine. He is the author of several collections of short stories and has published fiction in Granta and the Guardian. In 2010 he was
shortlisted for the People’s Literature Top 20 Literary Giants of the Future. A Perfect Crime, his first book in English was published by Oneworld in 2015. He is noted for his unsentimental worldview, and challenging literary style.