My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Title: The Girl Who Played Go
Author: Shan Sa
Publisher: Vintage Books
Num. of pages: 280 pages
Published: September 2006
In a remote Manchurian town in the 1930s, a sixteen-year-old girl is more concerned with intimations of her own womanhood than the escalating hostilities between her countrymen and their Japanese occupiers. While still a schoolgirl in braids, she takes her first lover, a dissident student. The more she understands of adult life, however, the more disdainful she is of its deceptions, and the more she loses herself in her one true passion: the ancient game of go.
Incredibly for a teenager–and a girl at that–she dominates the games in her town. No opponent interests her until she is challenged by a stranger, who reveals himself to us as a Japanese soldier in disguise. They begin a game and continue it for days, rarely speaking but deeply moved by each other’s strategies. As the clash of their peoples becomes ever more desperate and inescapable, and as each one’s untold life begins to veer wildly off course, the girl and the soldier are absorbed by only one thing–the progress of their game, each move of which brings them closer to their shocking fate.
Me before reading this book:
Me after reading this book:
I came across this book at a local library. When I saw the title, I was like, "What? There is another novel about go in English, other than Kawabata's 'The Master of Go'?"
I was eager to read this, but when I finished, the disappointment hit hard.
As my initial excitement of this book focused on the 'go' part, I felt that go wasn't an integral part of the story. The girl was said to be a gifted player. She could beat her cousin who was strong enough to be noticed by the Emperor of the independent Manchuria. Yet, this had nothing to do with the story. She could be a girl who knows nothing of this game and the story could continue as it was.
It seemed that the author wanted to use the game as a a bond between the girl and the Japanese officer, but it didn't work for me. There was no emotional connection between the two. They were, until the end, pretty much a stranger to each other. But, could that be what the author wanted? To show the cold and complicated adult world? After all, as the girl said:
He wants me to join him in the adult world, but he doesn't realize that I think it is a sad place full of vanity, and it frightens me. (page 25-26)
Even if I put the go part down, the rest of the story was rather disappointing. I understand the direction it was taking, but the choppy short chapters, alternating between the two main characters, didn't work for the plot's advantage. The writing was fine though.
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