Throwback Thursday: Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is: Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong.

Taken from my review in 2009, this book is still firmly at the top of my favourite ever reads. In 2008 it won the first ever Man Asia Literary Prize and with good reason. I have hardly ever come across anyone else who has read it but I honestly recommend so highly.

Image result for wolf totem jiang rongWhat I thought:

From the very first page I was hooked. Jiang Rong creates such a vivid and compelling narrative that I found myself simultaneously gripped with the story yet trying to slow down and savour every word, so beautiful was each sentence.

Wolf Totem is semi-autobiographical and Jiang’s passion for the Mongolian grasslands shines through on every page. The description of the grasslands themselves, the wildlife, the lifestyle and survival was stunning. So few books make me believe that I am there at the actual place, but with this book I was there on horseback, hiding from wolves, fleeing for my life, braving blizzards and building campfires. I smiled, I cried, I hoped and I silently pleaded all within the space of an hour. I also fell in love with wild Mongolian wolves. To get to know them was an honour– they are clever, cunning, brave, brilliant and I loved following their story (from both sides – the good and the bad). The Little Wolf that was captured and raised by humans both enchanted me and broke my heart.

While this book is most certainly a tale of the grasslands of the last 10,000 years and what happens when modern living creeps in, it is also a book about so much more. I can’t praise this enough; I am sad that it has ended as I could have read on for another 500 pages. What a beautiful book, one I highly recommend and one I will be reading again and again.

Verdict:

It’s now quite a while since I read this and I really think I want to read it again soon; just reading this review has brought back so many memories of how wonderful it is. If you love animals, nature, different cultures, the human spirit or just damn good literature then you will love this.

 

Day 29 – A favourite book with animals in it

Oh but they do talk, James….

This is THEEEE most difficult challenge day yet.  I am a huge animal-lover and I have a real soft spot for books with them, about them or narrated by them. Funnily enough, if a book is supposed to be narrated by a child, unless it is really well done – e.g. ROOM – then they generally make me cringe. However, a book narrated by a dog……well! That’s differnt. It cvan be heartwarming or pure comedy gold.

After umming and ahhhing for ages which book to pick (I don’t want to offend said animals who didn’t quite make it, you see) I have decided to include twelve books today. Yes, TWELVE!

So, in no particular order:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I read it in one evening and even skipped dinner for this book. I cried my way through half of it and I still think about those animals now. Boxer broke my heart (if you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean :().

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

This book is actually called Lorelei’s Secret in the UK, but I bought it when I was in NYC on a long weekend about 6 or 7 years ago and read it on the flight home. A man’s wife dies by falling out of an apple tree and the only witness is the couple’s dog, Lorelei, so he tries to teach her to speak to that she can tell him what happened. Loved it.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

You all know what I think about this book. I fell in love with Richard Parker the bengal tiger. Still love him now.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

My all-time favourite book, and not just because there are animals in it but it’s all the better for them being there. Wolves, horses, foxes, they’re all in there. And if the baby wolf cub doesn’t break your heart, I think it’s possible you may not be human. Sigh.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Yes, the rather sexy R-Patz stars in the recent movie (always a bonus) but before even he came along, I fell in love with Rosie the elephant and Queenie the dog in this book. Superb book.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Read this on a plane to Norway one Christmas and it melted my heart. A little girl, Patsy, lives on a trailer site near a little town in Alabama and becomes befriended by some of the residents. She makes friend with a redbird called Jack who becomes her bestfriend. Truly heartwarming.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I didn’t read this book as a child. In fact I read it for the first time two years ago. Black Beauty is a lovley natured horse who has a great life but his owners are forced to sell him and he starts a life of hardship and cruelty. But even among this there are kind, gentle people who want to help him and of course he makes lots of horsey friends. Lovely.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

I just loved this book and can’t understand why it’s not better known. In freezing, communist Moscow and 4 year old Ramochka is fending for himself on the streets when he follows a stray dog to its den and becomes one of their pack. This book is all about the bond between human and animal and it affected me so profoundly that I bawled my eyes out. Fantastic book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Enzo is the most loyal and lovable dog in the world and he tells us the story of his family through his eyes. Cry much?

Homeless Rats by Ahmed Fagih

I will be reviewing this book tommorow so keep a look out for it.

If Only They Could Talk by Jame Herriott

And finally, if I absolutely HAD to pick one then the prize would go to the James Herriot series. I have only read the first two out of my boxset and I love knowing that I have all the rest to come. James Herriot is a vet in the Yorkshire Dales and his books are laugh-out-loud funny. James tried to fit into the town of hardened Yorkshire farmers and animals with minds of their own. My fabourite characters were Mrs Pumphrey and her dog Tricki Woo had me bent over double, crying with laughter!

  Do you like books with animals? Which other ones can you recommend to me?

Day 4 – A favourite translated book

What time is it, Mr Wolf?

Up until I started blogging I never really paid attention to wether or not a book was translated. It’s only since reading other blogs (in particular Winstonsdad’s Blog – go and check out Stu’s blog for some real inspiration on who to read in translated books) that I became aware of just what an art it really is. Translating isn’t merely directly translating the words or even the general meaning into English, but it is about really getting under the skin of a book and the very essence of it. It’s a proper skill and has given me a whole new awareness of how a translation can either make or break a book.

My favourite translated book does have to be Wolf Totem, however, as it is actually my favourite book ever regardless of the fact that it is translated from Mandarin. Howard Goldblatt is a professor and has translated numerous works from Chinese into English (and this makes me think I should check out more of his works – especially as I have just found out while googling him that in the first four years of the Asian Man Booker Prize, 3 out of the 4 winners – including Wolf Totem – were translated by him!)

Here is my review of Wolf Totem:

“From the very first page I was hooked. Jiang Rong creates such a vivid and compelling narrative that I found myself similtaniously gripped with the story yet trying to slow down and savour every word, so beautiful was each sentence.

Wolf Totem is semi-autobiographical and Jiang’s passion for the Mongolian grasslands shines through on every page. The description of the grasslands themselves, the wildlife, the lifestyle and survival was stunning. So few books make me believe that I am there at the actual place, but with this book I was there on horseback, hiding from wolves, fleeing for my life, braving blizzards and building campfires. I smiled, I cried, I hoped and I silently pleaded all within the space of an hour. I also fell in love with wild Mongolian wolves. To get to know them was a pleasure – they are clever, cunning, brave, brilliant and I loved following their story (from both sides – the good and the bad). The Little Wolf that was captured and raised by humans both endeared me and broke my heart.

While this book is most certainly a tale of the grasslands of the last 10,000 years and what happens when modern living creeps in, it is also a book about so much more. I can’t praise this enough; I am sad that it has ended as I could have read on for another 500 pages. What a beautiful book, one I highly recommend and one I will be reading again and again.

 

I hope I have persuaded you to read it.

 

  Which translated books are your favourites?

 

My Top 10 Reads of 2009

So here we are, the end of another year. I have read exactly 100 books this year (well, I will have when I race through #100 today!). I’ve read some truly fantastic books and some real humdingers too! So here is my Top 10 of 2009:

This book is just awesome! I can’t believe that I have never read it before this year. I fell in love with the Bronte’s from reading this and went on to read several more of theirs this year. I also live in Yorkshire and my Mum bought me membership to the Bronte Society for my birthday this year (so excited!). The village of Hawarth is stunning – it’s no wonder that those sisters were so inspired to write such wonderful books.

You can read my review of Jane Eyre here. I also highly recommend Villette which only just missed out on a Top 10 spot.

Wolf Totem is quite possibly my favourite book of all time! I devour books about China as I am fascinated with the country (I even went there on holiday in 2004 to feed my fascination). I picked this up one night just to flick through the pages (as I was already in the middle of another book) and before I knew it I had read about 20 pages and could not put it down. Wolf Totem is not only beautifually written (I don’t know what the Chinese version is like but the translation is stunning) but I really felt like I was right there in the pages. It also made me fall head over heals in love with wolves (which has started another book buying craze!). I cannot recommed this book highly enough – it really is a gem. You can read my review here.

I started reading this book on the plane to New York a few weeks ago and I was gripped! This is one of the best written, on-the-edge-of-your-seat books that I have ever read. The plot is amazing: dystopia novels always frighten me because I can see something like this so easily happening  just as I did with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (another awesome book). This is a YA book but really is one for the adults too; in fact I didn’t notice that I was reading something aimed at teenagers, I was so engrossed in it.

You can read my review here. Read this and then read the second in the series, Catching Fire. The third is out in August and I cannot wait!

I am a massive Joanne Harris fan. If you have read Chocolat and loved it, then you will love Five Quarters of the Orange even more. I love the way Harris can make you fall in love with a place and want to be there among the village and the characters, despite the fact that it’s set in the middle of a war. All her books are wonderful but I think that this is my favourite of them all.

I will be uploading my review of this book shortly so watch this space.

I just love books with really bleak settings which is exactly what Ethan Frome is. I think it’s because I crave peace and quiet and solitude so to me a tiny village that regularly gets cut off by the snow sounds like heaven to me! This book really is bleak, the characters have hard lives and there is little to look forward to. Yet in the middle of that is one of the most beautiful love stories that I have ever read. I know that this book is not a favourite among a lot of people (I think it was a set read in some American schools and seems to have really turned people off it) but seriously, it is such a treat to read. I highly recommend.

You can read my review of Ethan Frome here.

Tracy Chevalier is another author that I am a massive fan of. She writes historical fiction but often based on true stories (of people that aren’t well known historical figures). Remarkable Creatures is one of those. It is based on a fossil hunter called Mary Anning who lived on the English coast in the early 19th century. This book really was a joy to read; I felt like I knew Mary and her friends and that I was there in the pages with them. I love it when a book can do that to you. It’s such a gentle read yet the pace never slackens and I found myself not able to put it down.

You can read my review here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in a trilogy of books. It is written by a Swedish journalis (which also stars a Swedish journalist) who died just after completing the trilogy (I wonder if he had any idea just how big this series would become). The girl in question is a computer hacker who ends up helping the journalist to solve a “locked room” mystery. It’s such a fabulous page-turner of a book, just as the second in the series The Girl who Played with Fire is. I have the third book at home which has stopped whispering to me and is now yelling at me from the bookshelf! I must read that really soon.

You can read my review here.

This book is a real eye-opener into Indian society. White Tiger is about a young boy whom we watch grow up and try to carve out an existance for himself in India. It is shocking, heartbreaking and funny all at once. There are no real heros in this book; there is no-one to root for as they all make bad choices but ultimately you have to ask yourself what would you do in their situation? They are trying to survive in a corupt world. Fantastic narrative, witty, sharp and ultimately a real page-turner.

You can read my review here.

No list is complete without some chicklit on it. And this is the best of them for 2009. I am a huge Sophie Kinsella fan and have read all her books, but out of the 4 standalone this is my favourite. I read it while curled up on a sun lounger in Kefalonia this summer and it was perfect summer reading. In Twenties Girl, yes there is the usual shopping and shoes and boys (what’s not to love?) but this time there is a ghost who wants to relive her glory years in the roaring 20’s and boy does she make sure she has fun.

You can read my review here.

Who knew that science fiction could be so much fun? I just loved this book! The Midwich Cuckoos is about a little English village that suddenly freezes in time for a few hours and all the residents collapse. Nobody can get in and nobody can get out. When they wake up they have no idea what happened but in the following weeks all the women and girls over about 15 find themselves pregnant. When their children are born they all have the same white blonde hair and don’t communicate with anyone but themselves. It’s creepy and brilliant! Don’t miss it.

I will upload my review soon so watch this space.

So that’s my Top 10 of 2009. You can see the full list of 100 books that I read here.

Book Review: Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

I read this book 9 months ago, after having my head buried in it for 4 days and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It is the most wonderful book and is quite possibly now my favourite book of all time.

 
From the very first page I was hooked. Jiang Rong creates such a vivid and compelling narrative that I found myself similtaniously gripped with the story yet trying to slow down and savour every word, so beautiful was each sentence.

Wolf Totem is semi-autobiographical and Jiang’s passion for the Mongolian grasslands shines through on every page. The description of the grasslands themselves, the wildlife, the lifestyle and survival was stunning. So few books make me believe that I am there at the actual place, but with this book I was there on horseback, hiding from wolves, fleeing for my life, braving blizzards and building campfires. I smiled, I cried, I hoped and I silently pleaded all within the space of an hour. I also fell in love with wild Mongolian wolves. To get to know them was a pleasure – they are clever, cunning, brave, brilliant and I loved following their story (from both sides – the good and the bad). The Little Wolf that was captured and raised by humans both endeared me and broke my heart.

While this book is most certainly a tale of the grasslands of the last 10,000 years and what happens when modern living creeps in, it is also a book about so much more. I can’t praise this enough; I am sad that it has ended as I could have read on for another 500 pages. What a beautiful book, one I highly recommend and one I will be reading again and again.

I also have these books at home that are set in Mongolia (or partly set there). I really want to read these soon:

Hearing Birds Fly - Louisa Waugh

The Empire of Genghis Khan - Stanley Stewart

Shadow of the Silk Road - Colin Thubron