Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review - February Flowers



February Flowers is Fan Wu’s first novel, which makes it an even bigger triumph. If writers truly grow better with experience, I expect amazing things from this one. Normally, I don’t look into the author’s life very much while reading their work, but the fact that English is Ms. Wu’s second language really astounded me. Then again, it may be that the flavor of her native Chinese is the very thing that makes this work so enchanting. To find out more about her writing, you can visit her website at FanWuWrites Now, on with the review.

February Flowers is, in essence, a coming of age story. But there is so much more here than that simple explanation could encompass. The story centers on two girls in the same college in China and their friendship during a time when a strict, traditional environment is just opening up to a new and more modern mindset, especially for young women. The story is told through the eyes of Ming, the sedate bookworm who basks in the music of her violin and daydreams while Yan is outgoing and carefree, embracing her own sensuality without seeming to pay heed to any of society’s rigid sensibilities.

Perhaps Yan sums up their friendship best when she says, “I live inside and you live outside. Or the other way around. We can never live on the same side.” But the truth here seems to lie deep within the subtleties of the story; underneath the difference in disposition and background the two seem to share some commonalities of the heart.

Fan Wu’s writing style is delicate, bringing to mind the beautiful flowers which dot the balconies of Ming’s building. The phrasing and pace seem simple and forthright, yet there’s a poetry to the prose which can’t help but transport the reader into Ming’s world. I found the novel even more delightful than I expected at first glance and I’m more than a little happy that I chose to review it. For those who love Chinese culture, or simply enjoy a resonating voice in their reading fare, I highly recommend this one.

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14 comments:

Marjorie said...

>>>Fan Wu’s writing style is delicate, bringing to mind the beautiful flowers which dot the balconies of Ming’s building.

What a well-written and thoughtful review - just great!

Ello said...

Glad I found your blog! Didn't even know about this book. Will have to check it out. I posted a comment to yours on my blog about Finn. Thanks for stopping by. And that is some huge blogroll you have over there!

Mary Witzl said...

Once again, you make me want to read the book! Good work.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Marjorie,

Thanks so much for stopping by. When I chose to review this one, it was more because I had the time right now than because I was interested in the description - this isn't a book I would have picked up on my own but I'm so glad that I did. Every once in a while you find a real treasure in expanding from your normal reading fare. This one was both a pleasure to read and write about.

Hello ello,

By the way, I love your avatar. Thanks so much for the return visit - I'll be back over to see where the conversation went and dig into your blogs a bit.

February Flowers is a newer release, if I had to categorize it, I would put it in literary fiction - you can follow the links in the post to both the author's site and amazon for descriptions.

And, yeah, weighty little blogroll - I've been blogging for about two years now, though the blogging community I started at has since gone under. About half of my blogroll are bloggers I met there and the other half from around the different blogs. I've been blogrolling a lot more fiction writers and agents lately, but there are a lot of freelancers there, too.

Hi Mary,

I highly recommend it! So glad you liked the review and thanks for dropping a comment.

Ello said...

Hey Merry!
Since you do great book reviews, I thought I'd mention that I have a review and interview of the book Lottery by Patricia Wood up. So please come by and check it out! Pat Wood is a wonderful author.

Cheers!
Ell

silken said...

sounds like a good book. I bet I know someone who'd really like to give this book a try. I'll have to drop her a link to this review.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Silken,

If you're referring to believin, she's the first one I thought of recommending this one to - and Mary, who commented above, I thought she would like this as well. Actually, you and believin should check out her blog, Resident Alien, it's a really great one.

Thanks for dropping in, Silken. How are the changes at home this year going?

silken said...

yes, I thought of believin as I read this. will have to check out the other blog as well, thanks.

we are doing ok. my son is liking his school and the others seem to be doing well too. I don't know how well I am adjusting, but we are all getting there!

hope all is well your way...

Ello said...

Merry,
That's awesome that you get subsidized for your writing! But that must put alot of pressure on you to read and review alot, huh? Still, that's definitely a nice perk to blogging! How often do you review? Will definitely be checking in much more frequently!

Ell

silken said...

Merry, I went over to the Resident Alien blog you recommended. It is really good. I KNOW believin would love it and totally relate to it (except for the part about having kids) when she gets time, I hope she will pop in and check it out.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Ello,

I just started reviewing for Mother Talk, this was only my second paid review, but I really like it. So far it's averaging out to about two books a month.

The nice thing is that you're picking the book to review - they give you a description (usually the same as the blurb on the book jacket) and you can ask to be included in that review if you're interested. The publisher sends you the book (yay, free books!) and a bit after the review comes out you get an amazon gift certificate as well...

For me, that's a good payment because I can't walk into a book store without dropping a bundle. Check out their site, if you're interested (the link is at the bottom of the review blogs)

Hi Silken,

I'm glad the changes this year are going smoothly for you!!! My kids seem to be doing okay with it all. Gracie and DJ love it, Johnny still misses his old class (but his teacher tells me that he plays with the other kids and seems to be having a great time, plus he's excelling at the school work - so I'm hoping that means he's adjusting well)

You know, I kept meaning to point her to Mary's blog, but then I forgot during our last chat and we haven't been in contact as much lately as we used to be... I know she had the nephews over the summer, and I've been inundated here, plus I have to say, not being on wu, I don't 'see' a lot of my old friends as often.

But yes, Mary's blog is excellent and you both might like green chiles and roses, too - actually, I think your dad might really enjoy hers as well - great blog.

Jerseygirl89 said...

What a wonderful review. I will have to add my name to the waiting list at the library.

Sun Singer said...

A very tempting book. I enjoyed your review; you highlighted the very things that draw me into the books I end up reading.

Malcolm

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Jerseygirl and Malcolm,

I'm not sure how soon your local library gets new releases in, but this one's definitely worth a wait...

Malcolm,

I think you would enjoy this one, her prose are really well done, simple yet elegant and there's always more there than it appears.

If you get a chance to read it let me know how you liked it.

Thanks for stopping in.