by Zhou Daxin (Author), James Trapp (Translator)
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 14 May 2021 | Archive Date 18 Jun 2021
Alain Charles Asia Publishing, Sinoist Books
7 days, 7 lectures. Beijing’s elderly have gathered to hear sales pitches for care robots, immortality pills and dubious de-ageing tech. Yet one speaker, Nurse Zhong, offers only a story: of Uncle Xiao, the old man she cared for. What follows is a tale of how two fragile humans – one young, one infirm – weathered all life’s hardships: together.
Nothing worth saving lasts forever
China is ageing. Its shrinking households, overworked and overstretched, struggle to carry the burden of care for the elderly. Retired Beijing judge Xiao Chengshan is one among millions of old-timers who face a hopeless choice: accept a lonely decline, or chase dubious ‘miracle cures’.
Then into his life steps Zhong Xiaoyang, a young rural nurse with her own share of problems. The two have little in common, but as time delivers tragedies they learn that family can take many forms. Will this unlikely pair weather life’s storms together, and will Xiao find warmth in his sunset years?
About the Author
Zhou Daxin is a contemporary Chinese author and winner of several major literary honours including China’s highest award for fiction, the Mao Dun Prize.
Across his body of work – more than thirty novels and short stories – Zhou has made piercing observations of Chinese society by setting his characters in rural, urban and even allegorical environments and touching upon challenging, often intimate humanitarian questions seldom dealt with by other authors of his generation.
Average rating from 8 members
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!
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.
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