The Seventh Day: Book summary and reviews of The Seventh Day by Yu Hua

The Seventh Day

A Novel

by Yu Hua

The Seventh Day by Yu Hua X
The Seventh Day by Yu Hua
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Book Summary

Yang Fei was born on a moving train, lost by his mother, adopted by a young switchman, raised with simplicity and love—utterly unprepared for the changes that await him and his country. As a young man, he searches for a place to belong in a nation ceaselessly reinventing itself.

At forty-one, he meets an unceremonious death, and lacking the money for a burial plot, must roam the afterworld aimlessly. There, over the course of seven days, he encounters the souls of people he's lost, and as he retraces the path of his life, we meet an extraordinary cast of characters: his adoptive father, beautiful ex-wife, neighbors who perished in the demolition of their homes.

Vivid, urgent, and panoramic, Yang Fei's passage movingly traces the contours of his vast nation—its absurdities, its sorrows, and its soul. This searing novel affirms Yu Hua's place as the standard-bearer of Chinese fiction.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Although the author retains his signature outlook of an absurdist new China with little regard for humanity... this latest is ultimately less graphic exposé and more poignant fable about family bonds made not of blood ties but unbreakable heartstrings. It will assuredly reward Yu's readers, familiar and new." - Library Journal

"Hua's prose has a lilting, elegiac quality that is both soothing and distant, but his characters, quite like apparitions, never fully materialize. " - Publishers Weekly

"Compelling moments and black humor go some way toward relieving the lugubrious funk of this episodic work, which might adapt well as a one-man show for John Leguizamo but falls short of being a fully realized novel." - Kirkus

This information about The Seventh Day was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

thought-provoking
The Seventh Day is the fifth novel by acclaimed Chinese novelist and essayist, Yu Hua. At forty-one, Yang Fei dies in an Eatery explosion, but, having no burial plot, and no-one to buy one for him, he eventually finds himself wandering in a sort of Limbo, the Land of the Unburied. He wears a black armband: he mourns his own death as there is no-one else to do so. As he drifts around the afterlife, he encounters people who look familiar but do not sound like those he knew in life, people now also dead.

He also meets certain people he has heard about, and all have interesting tales to tell. Travelling the path of memory, Fei recalls the story of his birth, his rescue from certain death by Yang Jinbiao, a loving childhood with Jinbiao and close neighbours, meeting his birth mother, his short-lived marriage to the beautiful Qi Ling, Jinbiao’s illness, departure and Fei’s search for him, and Fei’s own death.

With Fei’s memories and the stories of those he encounters, Yu employs an interesting device for commenting on contemporary China: nominally Communist, yet corruption is rife, classes of society do exist and social injustice abounds. He shows the homeless living in bomb shelters, yet craving iPhone 4s, blogging on QQ, selling kidneys for cash and committing suicide for apparently trivial reasons. While the forced demolitions, threats, payment of hush money, cover-ups, propaganda (like downward estimates of victims and deaths), abuse of privilege, bribery and foetuses regarded as medical waste paint a depressing picture, there are lighter moments.

The absurdities of the cross-dressing prostitute and his arresting policeman, the singing babies, the Eatery in the Land of the Unburied and the courtship of the hairwashers provide a bit of fun, and Fei’s relationship with his adopted father and neighbours is truly uplifting and often transcends the hopelessness in face of tragedy and misfortune. This thought-provoking novel is flawlessly translated from Chinese by Allan H. Barr. Fans of Yu Hua’s earlier work will not be disappointed.

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Author Information

Yu Hua Author Biography

Photo: Gong Suyi

Yu Hua was born in 1960 in Zhejiang, China. He finished high school during the Cultural Revolution and worked as a dentist for five years before beginning to write in 1983. He has published four novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean. In 2002 Yu Hua became the first Chinese writer to win the prestigious James Joyce Foundation Award. His novel To Live was awarded Italy's Premio Grinzane Cavour in 1998, and To Live and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant were named two of the last decade's ten most influential books in China in the 1990s by Wenhui Bao, the largest newspaper in Shanghai. Yu Hua lives in Beijing.

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