Monday, February 8, 2016

G512 Book Review of Dissipation by Tang Ying

Name of Book: Dissipation

Author: Tang Ying

ISBN: 978-1-60220-213-9

Publisher: Better Link Press

Type of book: China, Malaysia, modern times, long lost love, reunions, friendships, motives, marriage, changes, reflections, Shanghai, 1990s? money, greed, finances

Year it was published: 2010


This short novel by one of China's leading female writers is an intimate portrait of a woman's life, caught up in a rapidly shifting world.

Dissipation is the story of Su Xiaohui, a young woman desperate to create a better life for herself. Leaving behind her friends and family in Shanghai, she travels to Malaysia, where her wealthy aunt and seemingly ideal husband offer her a chance to fulfill her dreams. But when her mother is taken ill ten years later, Xiaohui finally returns home. She finds herself in a bewildering city, infused with the images of a life she thought she had left behind. When loneliness leads her back to her former lover, her tenuous relationships with those around her are severely tested.

Dissipation asks a crucial question: Should we try to recreate the past? In heart breaking, beautiful language the novel describes Xiaohui, her experience of going back, and how she finds herself facing unexpected extremes of emotion and desire.


The main characters include Su Xiaohui who is best described as a beautiful and vain woman who has made a lot of mistakes in her life. She is uncertain and cares more for wealth than happiness. She seems to enjoy showing off her wealth and on the surface is settled into her life. Qinghua is one of her friends and seems to have a quite a few similarities to Su Xiaohui in that she is on the competitive side and has odd motives in doing what she's doing when it comes to her actions towards Su Xiaohui. She is seen as far more intelligent than Su Xiaohui, while Su Xiaohui is seen as the beauty. Zhang Lin is another friend who became a housewife with a small son and has dreams of opening up the restaurant with her husband. She is very kindhearted and always there for Su Xiaohui. Zhen Zhen is Su Xiaohui's competitor who has a young daughter and is married. She and Su Xiaohui were competitive with one another and enjoy trading barbs. Cheng Cong used to be Su Xiaohui's crush and the two briefly dated before he went abroad. If I'm not mistaken, her feelings for Cheng Cong never went away. Zhijun is another lover for Su Xiaohui who never saw him as a long-term partner, although he had stronger feelings towards her than she did for him.


Be certain of your sacrifices.


The story is in third person narrative from Su Xiaohui's point of view. While I understood the plot a bit, I feel as if the author didn't really do a good job in mixing the past and present which confused me quite a bit. I also didn't really understand Su Xiaohui's motivations, and the ending really made me look at her far more negatively than I thought possibly. I also am wondering whether or not she will try to change her life in the future, which the author left for the reader to decide.

Author Information:
(From the back of the book)

Tang Ying is an award-winning author. She was born in Shanghai and graduated from the CHinese Language and LIterature Department of East China Normal University in 1982. She is currently a freelance writer and a member of the Chinese Writers' Association. Her first novel Why in SUch a Hurry was published in 1988, and since then she has published numerous short story collections, novels, and novellas. These works include the novel The First Time (2007) A Fei Street (2003), No love in SHanghai (2002) and novellas such as Empty (2005) Senseless Journey (2003) and Tell Laola I love her, which have appeared in the Best Chinese Novellas since 1990s. Her several novels have been adapted into films and dramas, among which the representative is the novella Beauty, made into the film The Hands in the Hairs. Tang Ying is also an accomplished film-maker and Director of Fringe Festival, which is an independent contemporary theater festival of Shanghai.

She has great ability for describing the fate of city women during times of change, as well as the emotional bonds formed by city residents undergoing the shock of social upheaval. Her works have contributed to the emergence of an urban literature previously lacking in China, and have come to be known as the representatives of a "new civic literature."


While I enjoyed reading the novella, I did feel that the story wasn't very clear cut as I had hoped, and I feel lost in some areas of it. For one thing what I couldn't understand is the reason why Su Xiaohui decides to move to Malaysia, or what her motives and emotions were around the time she moves there; what's also isn't disclosed is what exactly her husband is suffering from and what exactly her motivations are in seeking out friends and former lovers when it seems that she's rather selfish and cares enough only to show off in front of them. It also feels as if she's in denial about her life and is more angry at those who dare challenge it. The story itself seems more bitter than anything else.

This was given to me by Tuttle Company for an honest review

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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