Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review of Brothers by Da Chen

Name of Book: Brothers

Author: Da Chen

ISBN: 978-1-4000-9728-9

Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books

Type of book: China, 1960s-1980s, bastard brother, ridiculous coincidences, true love, money, power, wealth, ambition

Year it was published: 2006


At the height of China’s Cultural Revolution a powerful general fathered two sons. Tan was born to the general’s wife and into a life of comfort and luxury. His half brother, Shento, was born to the general’s mistress, who threw herself off a cliff in the mountains of Balan only moments after delivering her child. Growing up, each remained ignorant of the other’s existence. In Beijing, Tan enjoyed the best schools, the finest clothes, and the prettiest girls. Shento was raised on the mountainside by an old healer and his wife until their deaths landed him in an orphanage, where he was always hungry, alone, and frightened. Though on divergent roads, each brother is driven by a passionate desire—one to glorify his father, the other to seek revenge against him.

Separated by distance and opportunity, Tan and Shento follow the paths that lie before them, while unknowingly falling in love with the same woman and moving toward the explosive moment when their fates finally merge.

Brothers, by bestselling memoirist Da Chen, is a sprawling, dynamic family saga, complete with assassinations, love affairs, narrowly missed opportunities, and the ineluctable fulfillment of destiny


The characters lack proper emotions and seem hollow shells. I never liked Sumi and never really understood her motives or why she did what she did. I couldn't understand why neither Tan nor Shento found another woman to love and what is there to obsess about her? She's not likable and I couldn't understand her. Shento is a sympathetic character but from the summary, one could guess which brother would become evil and another good. Would be cool if the author made the good brother evil and vice versa. Tan is an interesting character as well, at least in description, but there was something lacking in the book that made both of them shells of themselves.


I have no idea what I should have learned from the book, besides to check facts extra carefully and do extra research for writing.


A lot of inconsistencies and too good to be true events. This is in multiple points of views primarily in first person narrative, although in some cases third person narrative was employed.  I do like that the author explained a lot and didn't leave threads untied, aside from the fact whether or not certain characters got together or where they are now.

Author Information:

(from the "Da Chen grew up in the deep south of China, running barefoot in muddy fields and riding the backs of water buffaloes. In his tiny Fujian village, water was fetched from an ancient well swimming with snakes, and the only lights that burned in most households were hissing kerosene lanterns. As the grandson of a disgraced landowner, he was a victim of communist political persecution and hollowing poverty during the Cultural Revolution. His family was beaten, his father thrown in reform camp, and young Chen, at the age of nine, was threatened with imprisonment.

Unfailing family love helped him survive in a dysfunctional society and he found unexpected love and friendship with four other hoodlum outcasts, but dreams made him soar above the poverty and persecution. His first encounter with a Christian woman, a Baptist professor, was life changing. She taught him English and opened the possibility of another world. He excelled in college at Beijing Languages and Culture University, and stayed on as a professor of English after graduating top in his class.

Da arrived in America at the age of 23 with $30 in his pocket, a bamboo flute, and a heart filled with hope. He attended Columbia University School of Law on a full scholarship, and upon graduating, worked for the Wall Street investment banking firm of Rothschilds, Inc."


For a dollar at a local bookstore I got Advanced Reader's Edition, so my views and opinions are based on that instead of the good version. In more ways than one this is an extremely dissatisfying story, although it had potential to be good. The characters lacked conviction and were unconvincing and confusing. Also, there are many wrong facts within the book; for one thing, the Tiannemen Square happened in 1989, not 1986, another is that Dream of Red Chamber is not an erotic novel but its a daily life of the wealthy family called Jia. Maybe in later chapters there's some erotica, but so far, from Chapters 1-60 no sign of any erotica whatsoever! (" Rather, I was vividly reminded of some of the arousing scenes from the literary masterpiece A Dream of Red Mansions, an erotica set in the Ch'ing dynasty." (121 chapter 16))  If the author got these small details wrong, I have to wonder what else he got wrong. Also, for a book that's supposed to be political and whatnot, why doesn't the author explore the politics of that era? Such as how the only child rule came about (If I'm not mistaken it started in late 1970's.) If those facts themselves are wrong, one should read about the women. (He doesn't write negatively about women, just incorrectly.) No woman would jump off the cliff while giving birth; also would any sane woman have sex immediately after she was raped?

1 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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