Summary and book reviews of The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin

The Boat Rocker

by Ha Jin

The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin
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  • Published:
    Oct 2016, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

From the universally admired, award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: an urgent, timely novel that follows an aspiring author, an outrageous book idea, and a lone journalist's dogged quest for truth in the Internet age.

New York, 2005. Chinese expatriate Feng Danlin is a fiercely principled reporter at a small news agency that produces a website read by Chinese all over the world. Danlin's explosive exposés have made him legendary among readers - and feared by Communist officials. But his newest assignment may be his undoing: investigating his ex-wife, Yan Haili, an unscrupulous novelist who has willingly become a pawn of the Chinese government in order to realize her dreams of literary stardom.

Haili's scheme infuriates Danlin both morally and personally - he will do whatever it takes to expose her as a fraud. But in outing Haili, he is also provoking her powerful political allies, and he will need to draw on all of his journalistic cunning to come out of this investigation with his career - and his life - still intact. A brilliant, darkly funny story of corruption, integrity, and the power of the pen, The Boat Rocker is a tour de force.

ONE

A week before the fourth anniversary of 9/11, my boss, Kaiming, barged into my office, rattling a three-page printout in his hands. "Look at this, Danlin," he said, dropping the papers on my desk. "This is outrageous! How could they claim that George W. Bush had agreed to endorse a book by Yan Haili? Everyone can tell it's a lie the size of heaven."

I picked up the printout, an article from The Yangtze Morning Post. It raved about "a landmark novel," not yet released. I had recently signed a book contract myself and was used to the hyperbole of the book business, but it was the novelist's name, Yan Haili, that took my breath away. She was my ex-wife. That brassy bitch—she never stopped vying for attention.

The article, printed in the newspaper's literary and art supplement, gushed that her novel, Love and Death in September, was an exotic, whirlwind love story, set by turns in North America, China, Australia, England, Russia, and France. Haili had been working on...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

...as a first person narrative of a – perhaps too-naïve – Asian-American man's experience, The Boat Rocker is a compelling glimpse into the mirror he holds up to the world of 21st Century politics, nationalism and journalism, and publishing.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (691 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Ha Jin stretches Danlin's initial missives, though amusing, nearly to the point of repetitive exhaustion, yet as the novel shifts focus from small squabbles to a more worldly narrative dissecting homeland loyalty and international relationships, it gains momentum. Ha Jin's prose is always pleasurable to read

Booklist

Starred Review. Laced with acid observations about the complicated collusion between China and the U.S. and the often compromised role of the press, as well as passages of ambushing beauty and drollery, Ha Jin's intensely internalized tale of moral and political dilemmas, greed, conscience, and longing is suspenseful, passionate, and wise.

Library Journal

Starred Review. National Book Award-winning Ha Jin uses sly, black humor to underscore the high price of integrity, the consequences of betrayal, and the power of the written word. Jin's latest should cross multiple genres and is especially timely for an election year.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The narrator ultimately realizes what an innocent he's been, and the reader shares the epiphanies of this pilgrim's progress.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Building a Wall Between Impartiality and Personal Opinion

Ethics ScaleThe protagonist in The Boat Rocker, Feng Danlin, is a journalist who prides himself on being impartial in his reporting and principled about expressing his opinion. Throughout the book he wrestles with the importance of maintaining objectivity. He researches facts and scrupulously reports his findings, calling out fraud where he sees it.

It is a perennial battle fought out in every newsroom the world over. Some reporters offer opinion with the facts. Others bend over backward to assure only verifiable facts get reported, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. But are all facts equal? Are all ideas built upon solid ground? Do readers even care? Questions like these have especially dominated more newsrooms in the take-no-prisoners...

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