Chenxi and the Foreigner by Sally Rippin

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chenxi and the Foreigner is set in China in 1989, in the weeks before the Tiananmen Square protests. It tells the story of Anna, an eighteen-year-old Melbourne girl, who is visiting her father in Shanghai and taking classes in Chinese painting. There, she falls in love with Chenxi, who is also a painter and engages in counter-revolutionary activities.

I found this to be an incredibly interesting novel. Very few Young Adult books are set in China (even though a fifth of the world’s population lives there), and the way it is described – the people, the places, the customs – seems brutally honest. The setting is very central to this novel, especially because Anna is new to the country, and all of it was compellingly real.

All of the interactions between the characters were particularly believable – the dialogue convincingly real, and each character unique and genuine. Everything seemed like something that could have occurred in real life, and nothing was held back. Chenxi and the Foreigner was to me a really authentic novel.

Anna was a frustrating character. She was stubborn. She was naive. An otherwise fantastic novel, but Anna was a bit of a downer. HOWEVER Anna is a sheltered girl from an affluent country, and her reactions to things, her behaviours and her naivety are all reflective of the way she’s been raised, and what a fish out of water she is in China. There’s no other way she could have been written, and she’s very true-to-life.

One thing disappointed me. It was the ending – not that it was unsatisfactory, but that it was so brief. It was a truly wonderful novel, and I really felt like the ending could have been expanded more, to give it a deserved finished. Apart from the ending, it was a very satisfying and beautifully written novel.

Overall, Chenxi and the Foreigner is a really brilliant book, which packs so much to think about. This is a novel that will really appeal to teenagers who are interested in foreign culture, and books with a bit of substance. I think it’s also a novel that will have a lot of crossover appeal, so adults should check it out as well.

The Chenxi and the Foreigner blog tour finishes tomorrow at Into The Wardrobe.
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