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by Bi Feiyu and translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-15-101294-7
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The American debut of an acclaimed Chinese novelist.

When Xiao Yanqiu took the lead role in The Moon Opera, she was a rising star. Her career came to an abrupt and horrible end, though, when she mutilated her understudy. Banished from the stage, Xiao Yanqiu vanished into obscurity as a voice teacher. Twenty years later, a wealthy factory boss decides to launch another production of The Moon Opera, with Xiao Yanqiu once again playing the lead role. The aging diva grasps this opportunity to recapture her glory and her youth. As she loses herself in the part of Chang’e, the moon goddess, her grasp on reality slips as well. Ultimately, Xiao Yanqiu loses everything. This is not Memoirs of a Geisha for the opera crowd. Western readers may find themselves mystified by the untranslated technical terms, not to mention slightly annoyed when they discover that the glossary at the back is hardly comprehensive. Nevertheless, the novel offers evocative glimpses not only of Chinese opera, but also of a Communist country opening itself to capitalism and a new era of expressive freedom. And, while the tragedy of Xiao Yanqiu may be particular in its details, it is, at its foundation, universally human.

Flawed, but elegantly theatrical and emotionally resonant—just like a good opera.