Review: Two Lives, by A Yi

Fiction: Crime & mystery fiction
Product format: Paperback
Price: £9.95; $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-78758-277-4

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.

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing.
Launched recently in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and
the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

My Review

Thanks to Anne for organising this blog tour and to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Two Lives is a collection of short stories. The stories are about love and marriage, crime and justice, politics, cultural traditions in China, and the strangeness of life.

These are not cheery stories, they can be bleak or distressing at times. Rapists and murderers don’t always get caught, the corruption of Chinese politics on the local level brings wealth, people live and die, disappear and return. The unusual style of writing is part of the narrative; the narrator is not always obvious, speech is often indirect. Sometimes it was confusing. The writing treats life’s hurdles with unsentimental directness. This works really well for the shorter stories, but the longest story, Spring, was harder. I don’t think the technique works well for longer narratives.

This collection of short stories was certainly a change from my usual reading, and I found the insight into Chinese culture and the direct narrative style intriguing. I liked the stories. I see why his style is considered challenging and unsentimental. I wouldn’t mind reading more.

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.

Alex Woodend (Translator) is a writer/translator whose fascination with
Spanish and Chinese began at Franklin & Marshall College. He continued his studies at Columbia University where he wrote his Masters on early post-Mao literature. Translator of The Captain Riley Adventures, Murder in Dragon City, and other works, he currently lives in New York.

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