Book Review: February Flowers by Fan Wu

February Flowers

I bought February Flowers by Fan Wu in order to participate into a discussion on a FB group –  Women Reading Great Books. It had good reviews,  pretty flowers on the cover, it was February and my knowledge of Chinese literature was just about zero. I had also just finished the book I had been reading, so I was on the look out for my next read. Febraury Flowers was actually quite expensive for an ebook at just over 11 USD, but I bought it nevertheless!

I read pretty happily when I started. The story took me back to my own time at college. I also attended college far away from home and lived in a shared room in a dormitory. Youth is a wonderful time and there is certainly a kind of innocence there. Then my own experiences faded into the background as Chen Ming (Morning Bright) and Miao Yan (Wild Goose) in Guangzhou took the center stage.

Ming is sixteen and Miao Yan is 24. Yet they form a relationship that is central in the story.  Miao Yan has already been married and she believes she knows all about sex and men. Ming is hoping to learn about sex and her own understanding of her own sexuality. Other topics in the book include studies, search for work and Chinese cultural differences between different areas. Ming and Miao Yan are both of rural background and hope (and their families hope too) to make it in the city.

There is a lot of talk also in relation to books and reading. Especially the Chinese classic Fortress Besieged is highlighted. Fortress Besieged was written by Qian Zhongshu and it was first published in 1947. When googling Fortress Besieged, it occured to me, that maybe Fan Wu is attempting something similar in her February Flowers. Not that I found February Flowers satirical, unless I completely missed it all. But the idea of marriage as something you wish to get into and when married wish to get out of, could be parralled with the wish to transform from a girl into a woman. The central story of February Flowers starts in 1991 and Fortress Besieged became a popular TV-series in 1990, so on a superficial level this could also explain the highlighting of Fortress Besieged. Political insights in China are beyond me to comment on. Only the fact that Besieged Fortress is viewed to be connected with the Cultural Revolution and February Flowers on its part might be connected to the treatment of sexuality in China in the nineties.

Now, how do I feel about my spending the money on February Flowers. I feel a bit sad. There are so many good books to choose from.  It needed to flow more and a final edit could be done. The characters are also too obviously opposite and some of the story lines hard to believe. However, February Flowers was not a demanding book to read and it opened a window into China and Chinese understanding for me. It is fiction books from different cultures that need to be read just for that reason. I give it only just three stars.

STARS: 3/5