China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation by Xinran (Translated by Esther Tyldesley, Nicky Harman and Julia Lovell) - review by Jonathan Mirsky

Jonathan Mirsky

Sore Feet, Heavenly Eyes

China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation


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I have never reviewed three books by the same author for Literary Review until now. In 2002 I wrote of Xinran’s first book, The Good Women of China, which was based on her interviews during a call-in radio programme she conducted in China, that it was the most eloquent account of the lives of Chinese women I had ever read. Two years later I found her second book, Sky Burial, disappointing; it was based on a two-day interview with a Chinese woman who recalled in minute detail events in Tibet decades earlier – and then vanished. So, after two other books I haven't read, how is Xinran doing?

Very well. This is another excellent book, and is more ambitious than the first because Xinran had actively to set up the dozen or so interviews within it. The women in the first book, after all, had called Xinran's station and could speak anonymously if they wanted. Interviewees in China

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