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. (Read the rest of my review).
Finally, Megan of Literary Life and I managed to do the Chenxi and the Foreigner book chat. Here we talk a bit about what we thought of the novel, and we talk a bit about the issues in it about life in China. Hopefully you enjoy reading the book chat, and if you scroll to the bottom of this post, two copies of Chenxi and the Foreigner are up for grabs!
What were your overall thoughts on Chenxi and the Foreigner?
I thought it was good. It kept me reading. It was pretty amazing to read about the scenery and how it was so different to most of YA
I really liked it, and I liked the fact it was set in China - not a location used much in YA fiction
yes I completely agree. Not much - if anything - is set in China
I find it interesting that in the American edition of this book, Anna was from San Francisco.
I think that happens a lot. To make them more relatable for the America readers.
But then again, it’s not like there was much about Melbourne in it, so it could have easily been San Fran, Munich or the moon
I didn't think her being from the US or from Australia made any difference - the novel concerned primarily her time in China and her infatuation Chenxi.
Anna's dad was annoying, and so was her friend, the French exchange student Laurent.
Laurent irritated me a lot.
Anna was a bit clueless at times.
His cockiness annoyed me
I really liked the bit where Anna went and met Chenxi's family.
That was a "real China" part for me
Sleeping on the floor etc
Versus Anna's posh apartment, you know?
Gave you a real insight, and I’m glad she included it
What did you think of the fact that the white people were allowed to go all these places, and but Chinese were considered 'less-than' the white people?
I thought it was a really interesting insight into Chinese politics and what life was like for foreigners compared to locals.
That was a major issue of the book, and I think by writing it Sally has opened a lot of people's eyes: I for one had no idea that happened. I’ve heard of bars and such over seas being targeted at travellers, but never to deny Chinese people entry.
I was of the mind that if a traveller didn't want a Chinese person in the same bar as them, then why the hell would they travel to their COUNTRY?!
I was frustrated with Anna, because I didn't think that Chenxi deserved all of her attention
He left her, he was brash, rude, ditched her. Only because he was good looking
Anna was so impulsive, and clueless! But I don't think sh could've been written any other way. I think Anna liked how Chenxi was kind of fighting against doing all the stuff the Chinese were supposed to.
I wonder if those things still go on (white-exclusive restaurants and bars in China) - I imagine they would, even though that book was set 20 years ago.
Probably. There's still a lot of issues over there I think
It seemed like a really one-sided relationship to me, the one between Anna and Chenxi.
I'm just reading the author's afterword and I find it really saddening that everything about the Tiananmen Square massacres has been covered up by Chinese media.
It makes you realise how much freedom Australians have, compared to places like China, where you're just expected to accept your life as it is and shut up about injustices going on around you.
But yes. It is very sad. I know. I thought that too.
I can't believe how paranoid everyone was about the government, and what power the government had. It was/is insane. I can't even imagine that
The whole way through the novel, Chenxi seemed worried about the government...
...I don't know how someone could live like that
(And I imagine that a lot of real people lived like that at the time.)
And I completely agree
Listen to this: "This doesn’t mean, however, that the massacre is forgotten. Each year, on its anniversary, the government places Tiananmen Square under tight security to make sure that there can be no public mourning. Dissidents are placed under house arrest" (from Sally Rippin’s afterword in Chenxi and the Foreigner)
How can a government do that? It’s sort of like Hitler/Germany...
Hmmm, well maybe it does happen
Imagine what'd happen if something like that occurred in Australia or the US.
But still. I can't imagine Australia doing that
I don't think it would be covered up
Australia wouldn't do that, but imagine the reaction of our people - I guess we have the benefit of lots of rights/money/things the Chinese don't have...
This would be a great book to study in school.
(Steph = nerd.)
(Megan = also nerd)
Actually, what were your thoughts on the ending? *SPOILER*
Hmmm it was ok
I didn’t like the fact that she got pregnant
Seems to me that that was the next best thing if she couldn’t have Chenxi
Having his son, you know? And publishing a book.
It seemed kind of glanced over to me, like it ended too quick.
Anna was very impulsive, I think.
And those scenes in the Chinese hospital were scary. *END SPOILER*
I KNOW. I can't imagine doing that.
I think that ties back in with what we were saying earlier
We take things for granted in Australia
Think about everything we have
And compare it to them
I LOVE AUSTRALIA
You can read my review of Chenxi and the Foreigner here.
Bottom line for me is:
Well written, well researched. Opened my eyes to so many things I had no idea about, and it just shows you how lucky you are to be from Australia. I thought jumping between the character's perspectives was good, although I think I would have liked it more if it was written from either Anna or Chenxi's, and didn’t jump.
I would recommend it, except with the caution of it being a heavy read.
Australian residents are eligible for this Chenxi and the Foreigner giveaway. All you have to do is become a follower of my blog (Hey! Teenager of the Year) and Megan's blog (Literary Life) and comment below with the answer to this question:
Chenxi and the Foreigner is set in what year?
Also, include a way to contact you (email or blog/website) if you win. Two copies of this novel are up for grabs! Winners are the first two correct & eligible commenters below.