Para calcular a classificação geral de estrelas e a análise percentual por estrela, não usamos uma média simples. Em vez disso, nosso sistema considera coisas como se uma avaliação é recente e se o avaliador comprou o item na Amazon. Ele também analisa avaliações para verificar a confiabilidade.
When I chose this First Reads book, there was only one other review up - a one-star review. I read the review and the book’s description. I thought that this work of literary fiction by an award-winning author could not possibly be as bad as all that … could it? So I decided to find out for myself.
Worth noting is that the author is a woman, so we are in fact reading a woman’s voice as she depicts through the eyes of men the woman who is so central to this story.
The three men in question are William E. Macmillan (an American medical doctor), Ian Ferguson (a gunner’s mate Naval Group China), and Liu Zhaohu (a Chinese officer in training). They are in China when the Japanese emperor makes his war-ending announcement and their post-mortem rendezvous thus take place in China. (This all makes sense since the author is originally from China.)
I find this book to be extremely well written. I often wonder if people who stumble upon literary fiction and give it negative reviews are just unfamiliar with what really good writing looks like. This book is well written, clever, and original - not an easy feat.
UPDATE: For those of you interested in following this bickerfest between two of Amazon’s Top 20 reviewers, here is my snappy comeback to the other reviewer’s “update”. My review was not an ad hominem attack. I referenced the 1-star review in my first paragraph. Nothing wrong with that. I generally read other reviews before posting my own and often respond, as it were, to other reviewers’ experiences; I pay particular attention to the negative reviews and share whether I had a similar experience with the product. As to my final paragraph, nothing is amiss there, either. Not every product is suitable for every person. For example, I take issue with middle-aged men writing negative reviews of children’s movies which my daughter enjoyed and for which they were clearly not the target audience. Literary fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s just fine. Mysteries and thrillers are not mine.
What I find particularly disturbing about this 1-star review is that the reviewer posted reviews of 6 of the First Reads books before 1pm on First Reads Day and gave two of them 1 star. I do not think you have to read every word of a book to form an opinion of it (although that helps), but unless a book is truly dreadful (which this one is not) a reviewer really has no business giving a 1-star review to an unread book. Add to that the little factoid that First Reads is a known path to accumulating helpful votes, and you can get a good sense of what is going on here. One final tidbit: Setting up a review to become the Top Critical Review is sure to lead to even more helpful votes over time. Getting that review posted first is a golden opportunity, and one which the other reviewer clearly recognizes.
As for the posting of credentials, putting aside for the moment that anyone can claim anything on the internet, I’ll gladly stack up my three graduate degrees and decades of writing, proofreading, and editing experience against any reviewer’s. (But really, why?) And I would do so without arrogantly adding that a book labeled literary fiction isn’t because somehow in a post-factual world, opinion counts for more than reality.
The original idea sounded good. One night in a camp in China, as Japanese forces invade the country, three men, over a bottle of whisky, drunkenly agree that when they die they will reunite on the anniversary and at the site of the pledge . So far, so good.
The reality is a poorly/ clumsily told story. It might be down to poor translation, I'm sure English was not the original language. Perhaps the story teller is trying to convey the ignorance and limited ability of one of the characters but I've previously read translated stories that were far more eloquent, consequently, more entertaining.
There was a time when I would read a difficult book to the bitter end, the "I've started so I'll finish" attitude that got me through "The Road to Wiggan Pier" and "the rise and fall..of the Roman Empire....". But not anymore, I'm too old to waste my time trying to justify the effort . I now read purely for pleasure and the first 5 chapters of this book was not a pleasure so why continue !!
The placing of the story in China encompassing the second world war and after, and embracing the local culture and mores is understandable as originally written by a Chinese native. I read an excellent translation.
The lens of three different men coming with their own expectations, relationships and different backgrounds tells a moving story of humans and others striving through adversity. Master stroke of imagination to make them ghosts convening on the location of the intersection of their lives enables the story to jump backwards and forwards in time effortlessly so the reader is drawn in and wants to learn more. It is a timeless story of the human spirit (no pun intended with all the ghosts around).
The chapter that I enjoyed most was the dialogue between two dogs about themselves and the humans and their doings.
I will remember this story for a long time and do not hesitate in recommending it to a wide, open-minded readership.
Having read this book and not loved it in the same way as many other reviewers, I feel rather guilty. I do like it and I think that the story is fascinating. It is brutal in places and often tragic. The biggest tragedies are the words that were never spoken by the main characters, which have been regretted ever since. This is a recurring theme throughout the book and clearly demonstrates that opportunities should usually be seized at the time that they arrive rather than thought about for many years to come.
The three main strands of the story are narrated by a Chinese soldier, an American pastor and an American military instructor. These characters, whilst sharing a celebratory drink on VJ day promise to return, as ghosts, to the village which pulled them together, on the anniversary of that day after their deaths. Eventually, they hope, they will meet up and reminisce. On the face of it, that’s a very clever device to enable the telling of a story from three individual points of view. But, for me, it failed.
The pastor, who is also a doctor, dies soon after the end of the war, before he can even make it back to the States. The Chinese soldier dies a few decades on. The military instructor dies at the age of 92, by which time the other two ghosts have grown impatient and angry that they have had to wait so long.
The strands of the story bear authenticity and match other accounts that I have read from the same region and period. They reveal great details and feelings which tug at my heartstrings. The binding force is Swallow, a local girl with whom each of the three main characters form differing relationships. Not only do they perceive her differently, but they each have different names for her. She is key to the development of the story from the beginning right through to the very end.
A three-star rating means that I liked the book and that I would recommend it.
So, why didn’t I rate it higher?
Ask yourselves this question. If old friends and comrades met up, even as ghosts, after many years of separation, would they sit and narrate their part of the story for hours on end without interruption? Of course not. They’d have animated conversations with many interruptions for questions and disagreements. I’ve attended many reunions and they are always filled with multiple chatter as we merrily and sometimes forlornly reminisce. Each of these characters is permitted to speak for tens of pages of the book at a time. It is impossible. That disappoints me.
Then there is an element of ridiculous. Two dogs, who played a central role in the lives of all four main characters, including the Swallow, get together for a reminisce of their own. That would be OK as it stands and would be rather entertaining. However, not only are these two dogs trilingual, speaking Mandarin, English and Dog, they are very intellectual in their language and descriptions and they are wonderful philosophers, probably more so than their human masters. They are also mind-readers. They relate the thoughts of the humans and one of them can even read a thermometer and understand the magnitude and meaning of the patient’s temperature. Although these aspects distracted me from the amazing stories, I would still highly recommend the book to you.
Read it. I look forward to hearing your own opinions.
I am not someone who often leaves reviews unless the item leaves a strong impression and A Single Swallow did just that. The story was well formed and the direction was clear. The manner in which the story was told was effective and enjoyable. It is difficult for a written to jump from past and present without the reader feeling as though they are lost in a storm but this is not the case with A Single Swallow.
The translator deserves praise in particular for her ability to seamlessly take a story written in one language and translate so the reader does not even realise it was not originally written in another language. Well done.
The outline of this book would lead you to believe it is a love story of three men for one woman. In a way it is but the real narrative is located during the years of the Japanese invasion of China and the poignant hardships suffered by rural Chinese and the Americans who find themselves weaved into their lives.
The detail of their lives and relationships seem so lifelike that the reader is drawn in as though you can see everything clearly in your mind’s eye. This is, by itself, a remarkable feat of authorship rendered by a masterful translation from the original Mandarin which manages to keep the Chinese idiomatic style intact.
Some readers might find the flow of the story disruptive, given that there are more than four characters telling their individual tales, but I found the interweaving of the narratives fascinating. This isn’t a romance but it has moments of romanticism which are heartbreaking.
A beautiful and unusual story, one that moves and informs. Genuinely likeable characters that invoke pity and sympathy (except Scabby, of course!). Even the seemingly negative characters' motives are explained and understood.
Set against a backdrop of beauty, war and fear, it's a story of love.... The selfishness and selflessness and of how we, and it, are shaped by our conventions
This book is based around Ah Yan, a remarkable woman in various ways, and of her story: set around WWII in China. Alongside this is the stories of three men whose lives overlapped with each other and with Ah Yan.
The book is engaging and interesting, and stands out as being unusual in its story. Global events interweave with personal stories: of horrors, survival, love. As the men recount their stories, intersecting with each other or picking up where the previous one broke off, we hear about the US soldiers stationed in China, about the village culture, about the wartime experiences.
It was a really nice read: well written and interesting. It is less than 300 pages, it felt quite a bit longer as the pages were fairly dense. I don’t mean with long paragraphs, more just that it felt like there was more content than an average 300-page book has. Overall I really enjoyed it.
‘Facing death is a form of bravery, but so is facing life.’
On the day of the Jewel Voice Broadcast in 1945, in which Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender to the Allied forces, bringing an end to World War II, three men, make a pact. Now, seventy years later, the pledge is being fulfilled by American missionary Pastor Billy, gunner's mate Ian Ferguson, and local soldier Liu Zhaohu. However, they are all dead and it’s their souls that are at this reunion.
Once you get past this initial revelation the story is quite conventional, apart from the fact that part of the story is also told by the souls of two dogs, Ghost and Millie.
The story is set in an isolated village in southern China during World War II. It is told by three men who have nothing in common except for their love of Ah Yan, the sparrow. Each of the men has a different name for her, Ian Ferguson calls her Wende, Pastor Billy calls her Stella and Liu Zhaohu refers to her as Ah Yan, which by the way is still not her correct name.
Despite the unconventional way the story is told Zhang Ling does a masterful job of weaving the magical with the realism. There are some harrowing scenes as the brutality of World War II impacts on the lives of the people in this remote village. Interesting too is that the main focus of this story, Ah Yan, does not narrated any of it. We don’t get to hear her point of view at all. This enhances the fact that she has little say in her own destiny and in the end she can’t even tell her own story, she has no voice.
A Single Sparrow is a story of lost love, missed opportunities and regrets. But more importantly it’s the story of one woman’s selflessness no matter what the cost. As Liu Zhaohu points out, ’We entered her life at different stages and all led her to the summit of hope, then left her in our own unique ways, letting her fall into the valley of despair to face life’s storms and clean up the aftermath on her own.’
At times A Single Swallow can be a difficult read. Due partly to the different points of view and also the different names each of the characters has. But in the end it’s worth it. A good story, if not a great one, but a story with a powerful message.