Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review of Chenxi and the Foreigner by Sally Rippin

Name of book: Chenxi and the Foreigner

Author Name: Sally Rippin

ISBN: 978-1-55451-172-3

Publisher: Annick Press ltd

Type of book: Young adult-Adult, 1980s, contemporary/ historical, interracial, white female/asian male relationship

Year it was published: 2009


When Anna travels to Shanghai to study traditional Chinese painting, she's determined to immerse herself in the local culture- unlike her businessman father, who sticks to a community of Westerners. As an innocent new arrival, Anna spends time with Chenxi, the good-looking and aloof classmate who is her student guide, and is soon forced to recognize that it's much harder to escape being a wai guo ren- a foreigner- than she expected. WHen she unwittingly draws the attention of officials to Chenxi and his radical artist friends, she must face the terrible price of her actions. A deeply felt love story filled with raw emotion, cultural collisions, and memorable characters, Chenxi and the Foreigner offers an unrestrained look at hte limits on freedom in the repressive atmosphere of 1980s China.


There are three main characters basically: that of Anna, Chenxi and Laurent. Anna doesn't strike me as selfish as some other readers and reviewers describe her. She strikes me as a bumbling tourist instead, and someone who seems to be stuck in sort of a baby mode. She doesn't have a backbone so to speak and doesn't seem to realize that China has different rules. She is also an artist. She also seems to think that she knows everything best, which in the end affect Laurent and Chenxi. I could best describe Laurent as experienced and he either seems to have romantic feelings towards Anna or else wants to look after her as a friend. He also deals with selling of hashish. Chenxi's character is the most mysterious and least known. He lives with a mother, somehow learned English well enough to be Anna's guide, and its not known if he loves Anna. He is also a true artist and doesn't desire to go to America. It would have been nice if in the end one knew of his fate.


I think the main conflict of the book is of Anna and Chenxi trying to change somehow, or have some stability amidst the turbulent times. There is also main conflict of Anna trying to grow up and trying to follow the rules she no longer understands.


I did enjoy reading about Anna's travel to Shanghai, and how she spent her time there. As mentioned before, this book could use few more pages to flesh out Anna's feelings and turmoil at the end, because the ending seemed a little too sudden and she literally skips from point A to point B with nothing in between. If possible, I also would have liked to learn more about Chenxi and his feelings towards Anna, if he saw her as simply a foreigner, or maybe a little more than a foreigner.

Author Information:

Sally Rippin was born in Darwin, Australia, but spent much of her childhood in Southeast Asia. At nineteen she moved to China for three years to study traditional Chinese painting in Shanghai and Hangzhou. Now she lives in Melbourne, where she writes, illustrates, and teaches writing for children at RMIT University. She has had over twenty books published for children of all ages, many of them award-winning. For more information, visit (From the book.)


I found this book last week and really did enjoy it. I could easily relate to Anna's character in someways, such as thinking I'm doing the right thing or whatnot and then finding out I somehow wasn't aware that culturally I'm not supposed to do this. (Which is embarrassing.) The character of Chenxi is very intriguing and one wonders whether or not he has deep feelings for Anna or if he is simply going with the flow so to speak. I would have liked to see him fighting his inner demons, and not just from Anna's perspective. I also would have liked to know why Anna doesn't like Laurent, why she finds him repulsive. (If it was mentioned why, then I might have missed it.) The ending of the book felt very rushed and a five year epilogue or whatnot would have helped. While Anna does seem to develop backbone and realize what she wants to do, few more pages would have helped flesh this out.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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