, published as one book in English, was originally published in
China as two separate books. The first volume, published in 2005, relates
Baldi Li's and Song Gang's childhoods and early adolescence growing up during
China's Cultural Revolution (see sidebar). While the style is consistent
throughout the novel, the overall tone of the first book is increasingly dark,
with a depth that isn't carried through to the book's second half. A pervasive
sense of impending tragedy imbues much of the narrative. Yu does a remarkable
job of conveying the emotional and physical devastation inflicted on China's
populace as seen through the eyes of its children.
The second book (first published in 2006) picks up when the brothers are young
men and follows their lives throughout the decades that follow. Yu chronicles
China's reaction to and...
Beyond the Book
The Great Leap Forward
China's Cultural Revolution, which Chairman Mao Zedong formally announced in
1966, was a reaction to his earlier attempt, known as "The Great Leap Forward", to increase China's economic base by moving the country away from its agrarian economy to an industrialized one using
the massive supplies of cheap humans rather than expensive imported machines.
The Second Five Year Plan, better known as "The Great Leap Forward", was
unveiled by Mao in 1958. As a first step, collectives across the countryside were
merged into even larger "people's communes" so that by the end of 1958
approximately 25,000 communes with an average of 5,000 households had been set
A cornerstone of "The Great Leap Forward" was the...