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Braised Pork Reviews

Braised Pork by An Yu

Braised Pork

An Yu

3.73 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 9 Jan 2020
ISBN: 9781787301870

One autumn morning after breakfast, Jia Jia's life changes for ever... 'So elegant and poised, so tuned to the great mysteries of love and loss. Braised Pork is a major debut' -- John Freeman One morning in autumn, just after breakfast, Jia Jia finds her husband dead in the bathtub of their Beijing apartment.

4 stars out of 5
Jude Cook
14 Mar 2020

"Richly associative, the book’s imagery insinuates itself into the reader’s consciousness long after it’s finished"

He had insisted that her nascent career as an artist ‘become a hobby’; but now she takes up the brush again and later paints six different versions of the fish-man. She also begins a relationship with Leo, a bar owner whose parents warn him against her: ‘A widow is bad luck.’ Jia Jia journeys to Tibet herself and lands a commission to paint a domestic mural of the Buddha’s life. Here the novel veers, not unappealingly, into magic realism: in the mural’s pool she see a silvery fish ‘inviting her to step into the water’, which she does, diving after it in an intensely dreamlike passage.


3 stars out of 5
2 Feb 2020

"An Yu’s debut novel is light and laconic"

Somewhat inevitably, the novel’s ending supplies a heavy dosage of backwards exposition, which, even in high concentration, is insufficient antidote to the many questions and confusions created by the story’s later, fantastical turn. It is a pity, because in better, earlier moments, An Yu’s debut novel is light and laconic, animated by an elemental energy and sensitive to the emotional distances that can be sustained through proximity.

4 stars out of 5
Lucy Knight
19 Jan 2020

"unpredictable first novel from Beijing-born An Yu"

Characters come and go: the protagonist’s supposed best friend, for example, only appears once in what seems little more than a plot device. But An Yu writes with style, and her unfussy prose matches Leo’s description of Jia Jia: not “beautiful”, but “clean” and “elegant” in a way that is hard to resist.

4 stars out of 5
5 Jan 2020

"A seductive, sharply observed tale of love, loss and hope"

When Jia Jia finds her husband dead, face down in the bath, her loveless marriage of convenience is over. On a piece of paper left on the floor, he has drawn a creature with the body of a fish and the face of a man. Otherwise he has left her their flat but little else...

A seductive, sharply observed tale of love, loss and hope that moves from high-rise Beijing to rural Tibet and the mysterious, magical 'world of water'.

3 stars out of 5
Shahidha Bari
4 Jan 2020

"Realism and surrealism intertwine as an alienated young woman finds herself on a journey from Beijing to Tibet"

There are clunky moments, but this is a sensitive portrait of alienated young womanhood as it is set free from the suffocating constraints of marriage and comes up for air. Dining alone in a restaurant, Jia Jia watches an older couple chatting companionably. It makes her feel her own isolation more keenly. But later on, understanding, fugitive and precious, comes to her. The world might be strange, surreal even, but, as Leo puts it: “Don’t you think that sometimes we just need to love in the simplest way possible?”

4 stars out of 5
30 Dec 2019

"this is a debut that gets under your skin rather than leaving you cold"

Poised between silliness and high seriousness, contrasting narrative wildness with cool prose, the novel ignores the conventional advice “tell a dream, lose a reader”. An Yu doesn’t entirely avoid the pitfalls of her approach, not least because there’s a sense that she’s using the in-built drama and pathos of death to overcompensate for how the story’s focus on dreams can make it feel as though it unfolds in an impenetrable private language. But, at its best, this is a debut that gets under your skin rather than leaving you cold.