Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger

This book was on The NY Times list for 2010's most notable books and I thought that it was a good book, but maybe not one that should have been on the list.

It is obvious that Ms. Freudenberger was heavily inspired by the Chinese art of the early nineties because that is the crux of her novel.  Her story actually focuses on a group of artists that comprised the East Village art consortium of Beijing. One of them travels to Southern California to teach art at a prestigious, private all girls academy and lives with a family of one of his students. Yuan Zhao is the fictitious member who lives with a somewhat disfunctional family - the Travers family. The four family members barely interact with each other and have no interest in their supposedly famous guest.

i didn't feel that the Travers family and the sections that focussed on them were very well developed at all.  Perhaps Fruedenberger did this intentionally to make it obvious to us that this family is super shallow, but I wasn't interested in reading those sections at all.  The more intriguing sections were the sections that discussed Yuan Zhao's time in Beijing with the other members of the East Village.  They were fascinating, as were their motivations.  These were people that I wanted to watch, listen to and get to know because they were very interesting, deep and passionate people.

Generally, this book was all right - there was nothing fantastic about it but nothing overtly horrible either.  This may be good as an audio book for a long drive. 

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