Chinese Whiskers

Chinese Whiskers

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by Pallavi Aiyar
     
 

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Chinese Whiskers by Pallavi Aiyar is a charming fable set against the landscape of contemporary Beijing, seen through the eyes of two cats.

Soyabean is a middle class cat looked after by a grandmother who embodies traditional Chinese morality. Tofu is born to a stray cat mother in a backyard dustbin. They are brought together when they are adopted by

Overview

Chinese Whiskers by Pallavi Aiyar is a charming fable set against the landscape of contemporary Beijing, seen through the eyes of two cats.

Soyabean is a middle class cat looked after by a grandmother who embodies traditional Chinese morality. Tofu is born to a stray cat mother in a backyard dustbin. They are brought together when they are adopted by foreigners, who live in a traditional style courtyard house in Beijing's traditional hutong neighborhoods. Then Soyabean is offered a job as a model for a new brand of cat food while at the same time a mysterious virus is sickening people across the city. Cats are blamed for it and are being rounded up, and Soyabean and Tofu's idyllic lives as pampered pets come to an abrupt end.

Interweaving real episodes in recent Chinese history such as the Olympic Games, the SARS virus, and tainted pet-food scandals with a richly imagined world, this heartwarming story of cats and humans does what W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose did for canines. It will make you laugh and tear up, while showing the battles fought between the corruption of modern living and the ideals of traditional life.

Editorial Reviews

author of Unsaid Neil Abramson

An enchanting and profoundly moving novel about our relationships with animals told from a unique and refreshing perspective.
author of Homer's Odyssey Gwen Cooper

Engaging, exotic, and beautifully written, Aiyar's cat's-eye view of China during the tainted pet-food scare will capture the hearts of animal lovers everywhere.
Booklist

Major events in recent Chinese history are experienced first paw, as it were, by two precocious kittens who find relative comfort in the home of foreigners living in Beijing on the eve of the 2008 Olympics. In filtering ...international scandals through the eyes of lowly house cats, award-winning journalist-turned-novelist Aiyar cleverly illustrates how global circumstances can impact every strata of society.
Library Journal
Two Chinese cats—one born on the streets, the other to an orderly middle-class life—find their lives intertwined when they are adopted by the same couple. Told from the felines’ point of view, the narrative alternates between the two cats. Through their eyes, we see the corruption and greed of small men and experience the fearful overreaction of humans to a virus carried by civet cats and the way it disrupts the animals’ lives. We watch the building of the great stadium for the Olympics and observe the way the migrant workers, poor though they may be, manage to maintain a modicum of self-respect. The reader may wonder how much of the story is based on Pallavi’s six years as a journalist in China (which he recounted in Smoke and Mirrors); the couple in the book are called Mr. and Mrs. A.

Verdict While the cats are more anthropomorphized than in many novels that treat them as main characters, they are still engaging without being cloying. And the author paints a vivid portrait of the daily routines in the hutong neighborhoods of old Beijing. Fans of animal stories, as well as readers with a curiosity about daily life in modern China, will enjoy this. [See Prepub Alert, 6/11/12.]—Pamela O’Sullivan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib.(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Two cats in Beijing witness recent events--the SARS epidemic, rapid industrialization, the Olympic Games--from the comfort of their Hutong courtyard. When Soyabean is still a kitten in the Xu household, he is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. A, waiguo Ren, or foreigners, who live in a large courtyard house in old Beijing. Soon after, Tofu arrives, a dustbin cat, rescued by the animal league and brought to the courtyard as company for Soyabean. The two cats have escaped a life of hardship in a country that regards pampered pets with suspicion, though with a rapidly growing middle class, that is beginning to change. Narrated in alternating chapters by Soyabean, a handsome, lazy ginger tom, and Tofu, a small dark cat who prefers the world from her perch in the courtyard's pomegranate tree, the novel cat-walks between credibility and fantasy, just as these animal stories do. The cats understand human speech and other animals, and though their knowledge is limited, their intelligence isn't; not unlike the way we view our pets anyway. Soyabean grows into a beautiful fat cat, so much so that he's hired to star in a cat-food commercial. Soyabean's already considerable ego (and girth) grows as he becomes a star for Maomi Deluxe. Tofu is suspicious, and rightly so; she overhears Xiao Xu confess that Maomi Deluxe is made from melamine, and cats are getting sick. One evening, Tofu is kidnapped by a band of rogues convinced cats are the cause of the SARS epidemic. She escapes the van and finds shelter with provincial laborers. Will Tofu find her way home? Will Soyabean be able to warn the nation about Maomi Deluxe? A gentle happiness abounds in this simple tale, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing China. Modern consumerism clashes with traditional Chinese culture, as observed by two cats in this small charmer.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250014481
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
12/11/2012
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

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Meet the Author

Award winning journalist and author PALLAVI AIYAR spent six years living in a hutong home in the heart of the old imperial city of Beijing. She reported from across China for the Hindu and Indian Express in addition to teaching English at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute. She is the winner of the 2007 Prem Bhatia Memorial Award for excellence in political reporting and analysis for her dispatches from China. Her book Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China won the Vodafone-Crossword Popular Book Award for 2008. Her first novel, Chinese Whiskers, has recently been published by Harper Collins India to excellent reviews. She currently lives in Brussels with her husband, son and two Chinese cats, where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Pallavi has degrees in Philosophy, History and Media Sociology from St StephensCollege Delhi University, Oxford and the London School of Economics.

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Chinese Whiskers 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovely book for all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago