Readers hoping for comedy or observation on the theme of culture clash may be disappointed too. This is nothing like Lost In Translation (although one of the blurbs on the cover drew this analogy). The Chinese protagonist speaks such fluent English that nothing much fazes him. And the story is only partly told from his point of view, anyway.
In some unhappy marriages I've heard the child is ignored, but in my case, it was the reverse. Both of my parents watched me with the intensity of a pair of gamblers, waiting with clenched hands to see whether I might find the satisfactions that had eluded them.
Disclosure: Nell Freudenberger is a friend (gosh, I hope she doesn't read this review!), and tried to send me - not once but twice, I think - an advance copy of this book. Evidently it must have been confiscated by the Chinese authorities - only to be expected with a title like that! I'd met her when she was in Beijing on a reading tour to promote her debut book, the short story collection Lucky Girls. We kept in touch by e-mail thereafter, and hung out a few times when she visited China again a year or so later. On that second trip, she was investigating Beijing's modern art scene for a magazine article (I think she'd already formed the notion of using this as background to a novel, and had cannily pitched the magazine article idea to obtain some funding for a research trip). I introduced her to a couple of friends of mine with connections in that scene, and they in turn helped with the translation and the introductions to artists that made both the article and the book possible. I therefore feel a close personal connection to this work, and might perhaps be inclined to overpraise it - although in fact, I fear, I may have overcompensated for that tendency and instead been rather too acerbic in my quibbles. Setting aside any personal feeling, I really do have the highest admiration for Nell's abilities as a writer.