Xiaolu Guo: 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

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The latest addition to my website is Xiaolu Guo‘s 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth. Though nominally written in English, it was in fact her first novel published in Chinese. However, when it was translated into English, she decided to rewrite the English so it is a sort of newish novel. It tells the story of a young woman called Fenfang Wang, clearly based on Xiaolu Guo herself, who suddenly, aged seventeen, leaves her home village, leaving only a note for her parents, and sets off for Beijing. Her first four years in Beijing are difficult. She does a series of menial jobs and has very poor accommodation. However, after four years, she gets a job in a cinema, tidying up, and that introduces her to the wonders of film. When she finds an umbrella left behind by an assistant director, he recommends that she apply to become a film extra. Initially, she does not get much work but gradually gets more. She meets an assistant to a producer and has an affair but that does not work out but gradually gets more roles and starts screenplay writing. Xiaolu Guo tells a gentle tale of a young woman facing the world in the maelstrom of Beijing and how she copes. There are no fireworks but it is an enjoyable story.

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