Today I finished The Vagrants by Yiyun Li. I’d posted about it earlier when I first started giving a brief summary of the novel and my initial feelings on the characters here. I enjoyed this novel immensely.
Like I’ve said before, this blog is NOT spoiler free so… Sorry if there are any?
At times this almost reads like a play, you see all the characters living their lives and then there will be a break in between all that life where Li will describe the seasons and what some of the other villagers are doing and it kind of sets the tone for the next bout of scenes.
It was a little jarring at first, I felt the transition to that was always a little rocky because you’re so meshed into what the character is doing/feeling etc but by the end I saw how that was needed. Yiyun Li takes us from one character to the next and weaves a story through them all at the same time and this helped connect everything much better.
I did change my mind on Nini’s character by the end. She really was molded by her circumstances and she can be quite kind and loving if people gave her a chance. Which Bashi does but to me he is still vile and the way he ended up was sweet justice to me ha.
It’s so crazy Gu Shan’s death sparked all these little happenings in her town. Everyone from Kai to even Tong’s life was effected in a very big way. It’d be easy to see Gu Shan as “the villain” of the piece in some respects but what really is the villain was Communist China and the Cultural Revolution. The way this ideology really molded the way people thought, how they perceived themselves and the way they interacted with each other was crazy to me because it had such a hold on the entire country.
Even Teacher Gu who wanted to be an enlightened intellectual in a way fell victim to this group think.
Ha, I’ve been reading up on the Red Guards (it’s touched upon briefly as Gu Shan was the leader of the Red Guards and she was a terror.) Cultural Revolution etc. ever since. It’s heartbreaking to read up on the actions that were taken against the people of China during that time.
It’s not necessary to know everything about China’s history or the Cultural Revolution or the the Democracy Wall to understand this story. It’s more about what happens to people and how one thing affects another.
I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a great story with really great characters that are super fleshed out. It reads really simply but it plumbs some serious depths and deals with themes and ideas that are anything but simple.