Reviews of The Wedding Party by Liu Xinwu

The Wedding Party

by Liu Xinwu

The Wedding Party by Liu Xinwu X
The Wedding Party by Liu Xinwu
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2021, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2021, 399 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Will Heath
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Book Summary

In this sprawling, award-winning novel, celebrated Chinese writer Liu Xinwu cordially invites you to an epic, riotous, and moving neighborhood feast.

On a December morning in 1982, the courtyard of a Beijing siheyuan―a lively quadrangle of homes―begins to stir. Auntie Xue's son Jiyue is getting married today, and she is determined to make the day a triumph. Despite Jiyue's woeful ignorance in matters of the heart―and the body. Despite a chef in training tasked with the onerous responsibility of preparing the banquet. With a cross-generational multitude of guests, from anxious family members to a fretful bridal party―not to mention exasperating friends, interfering neighbors, and wedding crashers―what will the day ahead bring?

Set at a pivotal point after the turmoil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Liu Xinwu's tale weaves together a rich tapestry of characters, intertwined lives, and stories within stories. The Wedding Party is a touching, hilarious portrait of life in this singular city, all packed into a Beijing courtyard on a single day that manages to be both perfectly normal and utterly extraordinary at the same time.

Chapter 23
A young hoodlum approaches the Bell and Drum Towers—it's not looking good.

To many adults, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution feels like it happened just yesterday. Ten years of turmoil put a sudden stop to many developments that had been well underway. When the chaos was over and people tried to pick up the threads of the past as they righted themselves, they had no choice but to treat the last decade as a blank, as if time had frozen in the summer of 1966 and thawed in the fall of '76. For the last few years, newspapers have been referring to writers in their late thirties, or even those pushing fifty, as "young authors." Most people, including the writers themselves, feel they deserve to have ten years deducted from their actual age.

But what about those born just as the Cultural Revolution was kicking off? Aged sixteen in 1982, they've lived through infancy, childhood, and their teenage years, and are now about to enter young adulthood. They've been quietly...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Wedding Party is a discordant instrument, lacking in cohesion and demonstrating the chaos of ordinary life. In this way, it is a warmingly relatable novel. Weddings are stressful, no matter who you are. Unexpected problems are likely to occur, uninvited guests may cause trouble and emotions will run high. Liu does something truly remarkable in juggling the cast of characters: Beyond fleshing them all out into flawed and lovable people, he also uses them to show how the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath were experienced by ordinary residents of China's capital city...continued

Full Review Members Only (616 words).

(Reviewed by Will Heath).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Liu's magnum opus...A deep immersion in everyday life in Beijing after the Cultural Revolution.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Short story writer and essayist Liu's impressive U.S. debut centers on a day in December 1982 and the residents of a historical residence in Beijing...Even minor characters elicit empathy...This glimpse of the recent past is a treat.

Booklist
Prominent Chinese writer Liu jumps between these quirky and hilarious individuals, at the same time depicting the lingering impacts of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and exploring the fusion of human history and destiny in a world of uncertainty.

Asia Media International
Expertly translated by Singaporean writer and editor, Jeremy Tiang, The Wedding Party asserts itself as a deeply personal introspection into the state of human relationships and what it means to be Chinese in an era of rapid modernization.

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Beyond the Book

Life in 1980s China

The world of 1980s China depicted in Liu Xinwu's The Wedding Party was a unique and transitory one. Starting after the end of Mao's Cultural Revolution and leading to the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, this was mostly a decade of quiet change.

After the death of Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1976, Mao's successor Hua Guofeng was at risk of being overthrown by the Gang of Four — a group led by Mao's widow, Jiang Qing. Shortly after Mao's death, Hua had the Gang of Four arrested. However, Hua gradually lost the faith of the people, leaving room for Deng Xiaoping, a political rival of Mao's, to move in.

Deng is known as the "Architect of Modern China." This reputation for change and growth began with him restoring ...

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