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Catharina Lilliehöök – Mei wenti!

Title: Mei wenti!
Author: Catharina Lilliehöök
Year: 2002

This book is part of our course aiming at giving us more general knowledge about north-east Asia and the idea is, in this case, to get a first hand account of modern China. I have read some books on China, but I would not call my reading anything near extensive. Thus, I have few other accounts of modern China to compare with, which makes this review somewhat uncertain.

The author describes her life in China, from the arrival at the airport to daily life several years later. She does it by means of using small anecdotes and expanding them to more general discussions on China and the people who live there. This method is very successfully employed, although I feel that the anecdote part is somewhat too wordy at times. However, the transition from anecdote to more abstracted discussion is often fluid and the narration flows without much interruption.

It should be understood that this book is a first-hand account of life in China as it is perceived by a new-comer. The book seems to lack in deeper insights into the society, but is very helpful in describing everyday and probably very common problems for foreigners coming to China for the first time. I get an incoherent picture of China from reading this book, because the author often states positive things about China in general, but then goes on to give only negative (or what I perceive as negative at least) examples of this. For instance, she says that the Chinese are flexible, but most examples throughout the book tend to portray them as the diametrical opposite of being flexible.

By reading this book, I got a fairly negative picture of modern China, which I am sure is not the intention, since the author seems to enjoy herself living there. Most of my friends, who have read the same book on the same course, also think the book paints a positive picture of the country, so I seem to be on my own. Anyway, I still think the books is adequately well-written to be enjoyable and at the same time shedding some light on Chinese society.

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