Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Dai Sijie

Narrated By: B.D. Wong

Publisher: Random House (Audio)

Date: October 2002

Duration: 4 hours 25 minutes


An enchanting literary debut—already an international best-seller.

At the height of Mao’s infamous Cultural Revolution, two boys are among hundreds of thousands exiled to the countryside for “re-education.” The narrator and his best friend, Luo, guilty of being the sons of doctors, find themselves in a remote village where, among the peasants of Phoenix mountain, they are made to cart buckets of excrement up and down precipitous winding paths. Their meager distractions include a violin—as well as, before long, the beautiful daughter of the local tailor.

But it is when the two discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation that their re-education takes its most surprising turn. While ingeniously concealing their forbidden treasure, the boys find transit to worlds they had thought lost forever. And after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, even the Little Seamstress will be forever transformed.

From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening and the magical power of storytelling.


  • Abi O

    I really enjoyed this book. The author describes it very well

  • Sue H.

    It was a nice little story, but the only reason I bothered finishing it because it WAS short. The characters are not well developed, and the author doesn't give much differentiation to the character's voices. For how simplistic most of these peasants are suppose to be, they have awfully deep vocabulary. The reader was okay. Sometimes I had to rewind and replay with the volume turned up, in the car, because he would trail off.

  • Zandra Foley

    I really liked the writing in this book. I just wish there was more hope conveyed throughout the story. Without it, the ending was lacking.

  • Anonymous

    I totally loved this book. It was like an adventure since I really had no idea what to expect. It gave me a greater appreciation for my freedom to access and read any book I choose without censure.

  • KD

    I loved this! It was a well-written, refreshingly well-read book! I know some people find the narrator to come across as arrogant, but it *is* a story about a 17-yr-old boy and I thought the narrator did a brilliant job of hitting the right tone all through the book. I highly recommend this book, one of the best I've encountered in a long time.

  • Renee Locks

    I adored this reading and the beautiful use of language

  • Anonymous

    I just didn't love it. This book opened my eyes to a period of history I was almost entirely unaware of. But the narration left something to be desired. The narrator sounded cocky almost. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read it instead of listened to it.

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this book. It is a wonderful coming of age tale set in communist China. It was interesting to learn about the history of the cultural revolution in China. As an avid reader and book lover, I really identified with the strong feelings the characters had about books, authors, stories and the pleasure of a good read.

  • Anonymous

    Nice story, enjoyable book to listen to. Descriptive and humorous, providing an interesting perspective and some awareness of life in that time and place...

  • Anne LaBarba

    This was an engrossing story, well-characterized by the reader. It is written in a very straightforward stye that describes the cruelty of the re-education program after Mao's Cultural Revolution in China and the transformative power of literature. Two middle-class young men are sent to a backwater peasant village to haul waste, work naked in coal mines and plow rice fields. The labor is difficult for them, but the hopelessness of their situation is worse. The story unfolds slowly, fable-like and carefully drawn. I would recommend it to anyone who loves books about people who love books.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

by Dai Sijie

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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie