Sep 07, 2019mayog rated this title 4 out of 5 stars
What an odd little book, a complete departure from some of the other books I’ve read. Narrated in by a seven-year old diplomat’s child, the book muses on childhood love and obsession, human love of war, and a girl named Elena, all in voice that is at times funny, weird, and far too observant.
The book is full of gross scenes, of bodily waste being used as weapons by children living an unsupervised existence which most 21st century children could not imagine. The narrator spends most of the novel pining for an unreachable, and ultimately narcissistic girl, but ends up celebrating the experience as “teaching her about love.”
As in the Dory Fantasmagory books, imagination and fiction often blur. For many pages we imagine the narrator on a horse only to find out that the horse exists only in her imagination. Still, in the midst of this marvelous little gem of a novel, Nothomb manages to weave thoughts about the world as it was in the 1970s in China, thoughts that contain observations that are still relevant to us today.