Miss Chopsticks

ISBN: 0701180420
ISBN 13: 9780701180423
By: Xinran Esther Tyldesley

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Reader's Thoughts

Julia Waldron

A really intriguing book. It's short but to the point. The cultural differences within one country are so interesting and many a time you forget you're reading a book set in the early 2000s, it could be set in the 1960s when you look at the way the country folk are viewed by the city folk and vice versa. The political background is really interesting as played out through Uncle Two's arrest. The difference between the sisters is fascinating too. You really do like all of them with a fondness bordering on pity but in a nice way. All in all it's well written and really a lovely book to read.


I love Xinran's writing about the women of China; I devoured this book in a few short hours (time flew while I was immersed in Nanjing with the three sisters of her story). This is a story of modernisation in China, women fighting to overcome the futures that have traditionally been laid out for them for generations. A very interesting read, although I would have liked it if Xinran had gone a little deeper into the thoughts of her characters, and given them a little more depth.


Good read! I'd previously read another of Xinran's books titled: "Sky Burial" a true account of a woman's struggle to find her lost husband in Tibet and it ended up in my permanent collection! Although this novel "Miss Chopsticks" is fictional, the situations in the book are real, but for anonymity Xinran has changed names, and altered the facts, but at the same time presents a story of young women born and raised in the countryside and uneducated, who travel to the city of Nanjing looking for work.From book:"In Miss Chopsticks Xinran tells the fresh, funny and poignant story of three sisters who, like so many migrant workers in today's China, leave their peasant community to seek their fortune in the big city.Sisters Three, Five and Six don't have much education, but one thing they know for certain: their mother is a failure because she hasn't produced a son, and they only merit a number as a name. Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. Men, on the other hand, are the strong rafters that hold up the roof of a house.Yet when the sisters leave home to seek work in the distant Nanjing, the shocking city opens their eyes: to traffic jams and high-rise buildings, brash behaviour and strange sophistication, culinary treats and ancient palaces - and the curious world of work. While Three finds that her extraordinary creative talents contribute to the success of a small fast-food restaurant, Five and Six learn new skills at a health spa and tearoom for book lovers. And when the money they earn reaches the village, their father is forced to recognize some new home truths..."


Some of the sayings must be lost in translation but some of them were really great and I wish I had written some down! The culture side of this book was amazing, I have never been to China, let alone any eastern country, and this was very intriguing!I liked when Six was thinking to herself that the Chinese culture is the most wise as they never took words from other languages but drew a new character when they needed to create a word. Six feels English is lazy how our words derive from other languages. I think the Chinese language would be very hard to learn as a second language, the fact that mispronouncing a word gives it a whole new meaning, whereas in English if someone put emphasis on the wrong syllable it’d sound funny but we’d know what they were trying to say. It gives some humerous aspects in the book when someone misprounces a word, eg, Mother is prounced Horse!I was a little slow moving in parts, more a relaxed beach/summer holiday read then an intense action packed one. I found it easy enough to put down and start again later, I wasn’t hanging on to every word, but i was definitey interested in how life is like over there.

Deborah McCabe

This was a very fun read. I learned quite a bit about modern-day rural China. The character development was well done. I was intrigued that it was loosely based on real characters.


** spoiler alert ** Fiction A-Z Book 'X': Miss Chopsticks by XinranI really loved this book. It's the story of three sisters from the Chinese countryside who go to work in Nanjing. It's a whole different world for them, and the book is a great exploration of this relatively new phenomenon in China. The sisters (Three, Five, and Six) are varied in skill and personality, and Xinran does a great job of deepening their characters, and making the journey they are on interesting and touching. There are no great obstacles for the girls (I kept waiting for something bad to happen, and was pleased when nothing did), but seeing them adjust to the city was enough of a story for me.It makes a great companion piece to the non-fiction book "Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China"


Following the story of three sisters who go to the city to find jobs, this is an amazing look into the differences between city and country people in China. I found all parts of the story fascinating and really enjoyed it. Xinran is a great story teller and I look forward greatly to her other books.


While an engaging and quick read, I'm betting this is much better in Chinese. The translator's introduction notes that the book is full of witty wordplay which defies translation.

Roy Hanney

I nice gentle story that reads more as a primer to Chinese culture than a gripping tale. Though by the end I found it all quite moving. I would reccommend the book but not as a great work of literature more as a way of understanding the Changes going on in China during the 1990s. Its still going on and there are still girls from the villages coming into the cities just tat a lot of these girls are going to universities now.


I came to read this book in a roundabout fashion. A book with the French title of BAGUETTE CHINOISE was recommended by a member of a book group I belong to. We wanted to read it in English but didn’t know the English title, and decided that it must be GOOD WOMEN OF CHINA. But when we began to discuss the book, the selector said that didn’t sound even remotely like the book she had read. We finally determined that BAGUETTE CHINOISE had been translated into English as MISS CHOPSTICKS, and that was the book we were to have read.After all of this being said, it was a good “novel,” that term being used loosely as it’s more a series of sketches about three young Chinese women who move to the city from a remote rural province to work. They are part, of course, of the recent mass exodus of the Chinese population from the countryside to the city. Xinran, who interviewed women like the ones in the book, lightly fictionalizes them as sisters, allowing her to link their lives, although she points out in the introduction that they’re based on interviews with three separate women.Running throughout the book is the contrast between the rural countryside of China and the explosive growth of cities. There is no future for women in the countryside except to bear children and do hard physical labor These children should preferably be sons, as they have much more value than women. It is only in the city that women can develop aspects of themselves besides being breeders. But it’s not an easy life in the city. Two of the women get service jobs in restaurants, the third becomes an attendant in a bathhouse. A metaphor for them is that they are blades of grass growing in city sidewalk cracks. They all have unsuspected talents in this society, one that embraced aspects of competitive capitalism, but it’s easy for them to be taken advantage of, usually by men, in terms of low pay and lack of prestige. The title refers to an old Chinese saying that women are “chopsticks”, flimsy, frail, and disposable, while men are “roof beams,” solid elements that hold up the structure of society. This book shows the progress of Chinese women in refuting that notion; reading it gives you a good sense of the enormous changes taking place in China.


a la fin des années 80 les paysans sont autorises a circuler en Chine pour trouver du travail. On suit l'histoire de trois sœurs considérées dans leur villages comme des baguettes par opposition aux hommes qui sont des poutres qui soutiennent les toits. Celles ci vont en ville trouver du travail et échapper a la mentalité arriérée de leur monde rural. Et il faut se battre quand en 2000 on ne sait pas lire, on est jamais monte dans une voiture, et encore moins comment fonctionne une carte bleue.Pas un grand style littéraire, mais j'ai trouve passionnant ce récit base sur de vrais témoignages.

Jennifer (JC-S)

This is a definite five star read for me. At less than 300 pages, it is not a long novel. It provides a view of life in China which is as much caught in the past as it is moving towards a different future. I've reviewd the novel at Amazon.com for thise interested: http://tinyurl.com/3cbqwhI also recommend Xinran's 'Sky Burial'Both are beautifully written books, in my view.


I read this book because I was looking for a short book that took place in China for a reading challenge. I knew absolutely nothing about it, and had no expectations. What I found was a great little gem of book which explores the lives of three young sisters who move form the their poor lives in the country into the city. The three sisters are based on actual young woman the author met, and tells their story of how they adapted from being a poor country without any prospects beyond hoping to be married off to a good match, to how their views on life were changed after moving into Nanjing. The book has a couple of awkward translations in it, especially when relying "jokes" but I truly enjoyed reading this book.

Shonna Froebel

I took a snow day yesterday and was able to finish a couple of books. This novel is a lovely novel by a Chinese journalist who now lives in London and writes for the Guardian. Xinran was inspired to write this story after hearing a man in a rural area of China referring to daughters as chopsticks and sons as roofbeams. With the current trend of young peasant women moving to cities to get jobs there, she decided to show that "chopsticks" are not as detrimental to family life as some fathers think. She was inspired by some city workers that she met and took three different stories and made the women sisters. The sisters are three of six daughters whose father didn't bother with names, but simply named them One through Six. The three that get city jobs are Three, Five and Six and their different stories not only inspire, but also work together to show the new reality of life in China.


Miss Chopsticks is a fictionalised account of three Chinese girls who Xinran had met. Their stories are both sad and full of hope: they are poor and disadvantaged, but by good luck, cleverness and hard work, they show their family how much they are worth.If you're interested in China, and particularly the lives of women in China, I definitely recommend Xinran's work. It's well translated, I think: very clear and easy to read. The translation does create a distance, and it's not like a English novel, but if you're interested in China then that's not what you'd be going for anyway.

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