Beautiful as Yesterday – Fan Wu

August 19, 2010 § 6 Comments

Writing a novel, Susan once said in class, is like climbing a mountain – your goal is the peak and you know where you’re heading all the way – while writing a poem is like picking wildflowers in an open prairie – you stop wherever you feel like.

I had read Fan Wu’s first novel, February Flowers earlier this year, and loved that book so much that I decided to surf the web to see what other books she had written. So happened that her second work, Beautiful as Yesterday was going to be out soon at that time, and at the spur of the moment, I sent her an email to tell her how much I loved her first book, and if she would be willing to send me her new book.

I was, of course, ecstatic when I did in fact receive a review copy from her. Though I have to say that it has taken me much longer than I expected to get to finally reading it, I’m still glad I popped her that email.

The story, in a nutshell, is about quite a number of issues, much like February Flowers. The main characters of this book are a pair of sisters and their mother; the sisters having left China while still rather young, and maturing into adults in America – a society so different from the one they left behind.

Fan Wu touches a little on language barrier, how some of us think in one language, speak in another, and sometimes we end up not saying what we want to, and saying what we don’t mean. She also touches on some cultural issues, especially those that would seem most apparent to people who come from the east, typically more conservative, and how they might or might not accept the western way of living.

I loved the younger sister in this book, Ingrid. A free soul, a never-say-die character, she is an aspiring writer who isn’t afraid of her feelings, and who doesn’t feel bad for wanting to go after her dreams. I felt a certain connection to her, the way she felt like she had two second languages – Chinese and English – yet no first language.

I was left a little confused about some of the events that happened in the book, especially those that happened to Mary, the elder sister. They almost felt irrelevant to the entire flow of the book, and I sometimes end up asking, “Why did Fan Wu put this character in? What’s the purpose?”

I quite liked this book, and it’s interesting to see how coincidentally related this book is to the last book I read, where both books were about sisters with some sort of relationship problem, and both that involve immigration and fitting into a new society and culture. Fan’s book is definitely more my type compared to A Brief History of Tractors in Ukrainian, but I felt February Flowers to be a stronger book.

Rating: 3.5

* Note: Thanks to Fan Wu and her publisher for their generosity.

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§ 6 Responses to Beautiful as Yesterday – Fan Wu

  • Mel u says:

    I liked February Flowers a lot also and felt I learned a good bit from it-thanks for sharing your thoughts on her new book

  • Mark David says:

    I must pick up February Flowers then. Isn’t it so exciting when a book comes directly from the author? 🙂

    I live in a country where in all government offices use English names instead of the national language. Our road signs are in English. Practically everything that is deemed “official” (except maybe for just the constitution) is written in English. So I guess in a way we Filipinos are also people without a real first language.

    • Michelle says:

      It’s like that for a lot of us SEA countries, isn’t it? It most probably has to do with our being colonised in the old days, I would say. Like in Malaysia, our national language is Malay, and though for a lot of people it is their first language, but I can’t say we use Malay as often as I think we should. It’s our national language after all. And it gets even more confusing for the other ethnic groups, as we speak our own dialects as well!

  • Suko says:

    This looks like a beautiful book, and it sounds as if you really enjoyed it.

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