Cover Image: Longevity Park

Longevity Park

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Member Reviews

This is a really unusual book, one that attempts to explore the problem of China’s aging population, and although as a literary novel it has its faults, I found it really quite fascinating - if a little drawn out. It’s structured as a series of TED-like talks, a week of free evening lectures aimed at older people and care professionals. The first 4 lectures are sales pitches by various snake-oil salesmen with dubious cures and rejuvenation solutions. The main part of the book comprises the final three talks which are given by Zhong Xiaoyang, a young nurse/carer who was employed to look after a retired judge Xiao Chengshan, or Uncle Xiao. She recounts in detail how she looked after him and dealt with all that happens to him – and the poor man experienced just about everything old age could possibly throw at him. The whole thing reads more like a primer or training manual, a medical textbook, than a novel, chronicling as it does their daily routine, how she looks after him, all the medications he is prescribed, the aids that he needs and so on. Xiaoyang also relates all the scams the old man is conned by, all the remedies that he is fooled by, and how easy it can be to take advantage of vulnerable old people. Every time the old man succumbs to yet another medical condition, the science is explained and the book would actually be quite a useful vade mecum for anyone dealing with the elderly. The reader also gets a quite fascinating insight into the Chinese health system, where appointments are apparently available instantly (for a fee) and high-quality care is always available too. It’s not all doom and gloom. There are lighter moments, especially when Uncle Xiao looks for a new partner. And in many ways it’s a compassionate book, giving insight into not just the perils of old age but also the increasing mental and physical toll that old age takes. It’s an excellent introduction to life in China for a western audience, a glimpse into daily life and culture, attitudes, different towns and their various tourist attractions. The author did a lot of research, interviewing people and incorporating real-life stories into the narrative, and it’s certainly a multi-faceted book. Hard to rate it actually, as I expect some readers may find it too longwinded, and the narrator’s at times almost hysterical manner of speaking can be irritating, but I stuck with it, and overall I found it absorbing, enlightening, and a really worthwhile read.
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Longevity Park is a book that will stay with you long after finishing. Presented as one of several 'TED Talk'-esque presentations, Longevity Park is the account of home health nurse Zhong Xiaoyang as she integrates into the family of her charge, retired judge Xiao Chengshan.

Accurately capturing what it is like to experience the aging process of a loved one, Longevity Park takes readers through a range of emotions. I felt everything from gut-wrenching sadness and despair to surprisingly laugh-out-loud comedy, and the characters are easy to get attached to. My single critique is that I felt that the ending was a bit abrupt, but this is minor when thinking about how great the rest of the story was. I will definitely be looking for more by author Zhou Daxin.

Note: I received a free eBook copy of Longevity Park from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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We’re following a story of a retired 73-year-old judge, Xiao Chengshan as told by his young live-in nurse/housekeeper, Zhong Xiaoyang. She recounts her experience as a carer at an event for local seniors. Subsequently, we learn that throughout the years, they went through a search for a secret to longevity, survived some personal hardships and supported each other in more ways than they initially anticipated.

This all sounds interesting, but the format in which the story is told did not work for me at all. The first-person narrative was very dry and the wording felt very unnatural and forced. There was a lot of telling but no showing, so the character development was superficial at best and we learn next to nothing about the character’s surroundings. I felt no connection with the protagonist, she was annoying, naïve and sometimes plain unrealistic to me and I had to force myself to finish this book, unfortunately.
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This book was different and a surprise. The format was interesting and the chapters short, which made it more enjoyable. The concept and plot was also one I did not expect, it’s an interesting twist on life and death. The book eerily reminds me of Never Let Me Go and it gave me chills about humans advancement in science and medicine, and where we draw the line between our advancements and messing with the nature of life. I recommend this book because of the concept and the philosophical thought it promotes.
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The topic of ageing and it’s associated complications is a topic not much discussed in novels and reading this novel opened my eyes to the many aspects of the ageing processes that I was so unaware of. I liked this book and the writing style was easy to read and enjoyable. During the course of reading this book, I could see how ageing can make a person so insecure, especially an active and career-focused person,  and how they resort to all sorts of remedies to slow the ageing process or prolong one’s life. And then there are those many other conmen and fraudsters who take advantage of the old people’s insecurities and desperation and try to make a business and profit out of it. 

In this novel, you’ll be introduced to two main characters, an old retired Judge Mr. Xiao Chengsan and his young nurse and carer, Xiaoyang ; and how they go about tackling the ageing process while trying to navigate their complicated personal lives. You can’t help but like these characters and feel a kind of connection towards them. 

Though the book had some weird scenes which I felt disgusted with at times, I liked the book and the characters and enjoyed most of it. 

Thank you NetGalley and Sinoist books for providing a free eARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. 

#NetGalley #LongevityPark
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Do not be put off by the first few chapters. There is an actual storyline that is interesting, but slower paced than what I expected. However, I stuck with the whole book and I definitely understand that older people are not always given choices on the way they want to live their final days.
What if they don’t have family who can afford private care such as Xiao?  He was lucky and found Zhong a private nurse looking to move to the city. They managed to become friends and were able to figure out how to live with each other’s quirks.

The author has written a good book, but he added so much extraneous things that it loses sight of what the book is about. He could have streamlined several different areas and I am afraid the beginning is going to lose a lot of people’s interest. 

I received a free advanced copy from NetGalley and these are my willingly given thoughts and opinions.
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Book Review for Longevity Park 
Full feature for this title will be posted at: @cattleboobooks on Instagram!
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This is the third Zhou Daxin novel that I have read (the others being “After the Finale” and “Fields of Joy”). My thanks to Sinoist Books for ARCs of all these.

One thing is for sure: Zhou Daxin manages to find some interesting structures for his novels. “After the Finale” is framed as a series of interviews with people who had known someone who had just died: the reader is left to piece together what might be the truth about this person by working through the differing views and, along the way, a picture of China emerges. In “Fields of Joy”, we read a dialogue between a father and his late son who died after a battle with a brain tumour (this book is highly autobiographical). Again, we learn about China as we read. And here, in “Longevity Park” we read a series of seven lectures, all delivered in the eponymous Longevity Park.

All these novels take an innovative approach to telling a story whilst, at the same time, giving a perspective on life in China. It is this combination of story-telling and insight that makes them fascinating to read.

All the lectures in “Longevity Park” concern themselves with the subject of ageing and old age. At chinadaily.com.cn, a review reckons that this ”is probably the first contemporary Chinese fiction that deals with the topic of aging people in the country”. It’s a subject that China has to come to terms with.

The first four lectures we read are, in essence, presentations by different companies. The first concerns a robot nurse and a nursing home, the second a longevity pill, the third a remarkable offer to “turn back the years” and experience life as you were decades ago. And the fourth projects into the future and considers the possible developments in the field of human life expectancy.

Then, for lectures five to seven, we join Zhong Xiaoyang as she tells us about her experiences caring for an elderly man, Xiao Chengshan. In the chinadaily.com.cn review, Zhou says, ”"The aging population is becoming a problem. Currently we're relying on family members to deal with it, but society should be aware of the challenge, and provide more nursing organizations, community doctors and the like.” The novel partly documents the ageing process, but also tells us the story of the developing relationship between the old man and his nurse. It is this relationship that gives the novel its emotional side and which turns it from a documentary into a novel. In addition, alongside the relationship between the old man and the nurse, we read about the relationship between the nurse and her employer, the old man’s daughter. This storyline introduces another, if rather brief, thread to the story that deals with depression.

As Xiao ages through the book, he experiences many of the unavoidable effects of the ageing process. However, if you are like me, you may find that the final section of the book takes you by surprise!
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