My third blog tour!! I'm getting to be an old hand at this now!! Today it is my great pleasure to celebrate PP Wong's The Life of a Banana. To begin - a clip of the author talking about the book and reading an extract.
Please don't apologise if you rushed out at this point to find a copy of the book! But if you're still here I submit my review of the book.
I had little idea of what to expect from this book. It was long listed for the Bailey’s Womens’ Fiction Prize in 2015 so somehow I felt it might be a serious work. And on one level, yes it is, very, but I was unprepared to chuckle as much as I did. I wasn’t expecting the intelligent wit singing out to me from every chapter heading. And I was pleasantly surprised by the exultant narrative flow. My heart was full to overflowing with the delightful characters populating this novel. But I certainly did not envisage myself bawling my eyes out at the end. But that, dear readers, is exactly what happened.
This is a republication from Legend Press who seem to have an uncanny knack for finding the right book at the right time and the right place. This one is no exception.
The title refers to Chinese people who, though born and bred in the UK - white, remain, of course, ethnically Chinese - yellow. And the banana in question here is the delightful Xing Li. And whilst the entire story could be viewed as an observation on race relations and second generation immigrants in this country it does spread its net wider than that. In other ways it seeks to question society’s need to compartmentalise by nationality and ethnicity. It deals with the very contemporary issue of bullying in schools. It is a coming of age story, of someone finding out who they really are. It is a story of a young girl coming to terms with bereavement. And if that all sounds a little sombre it is also a novel of love and friendship, of family, of looking at the bigger picture, of not just accepting everything at face value, about integrity and standing up for yourself. In many ways it is life affirming.
Don’t let the wit and humour fool you. It’s an uneasy read in many places with some sensitive issues that the author deals with very well, not seeking to water anything down. I believe it offers the reader insights into what it feels to be perceived as an incorrect stereotype which is hard enough for an adult but for a child to deal with it’s a tough gig. Nowhere is sentiment allowed to cloud the issues and if the conclusion leaves us hanging a little in terns of outcomes there is redemption of the best kind - love.
But above all it is a novel of people, yes, somewhat defined by their origins, but also people living their lives, dealing with their secrets and coping with the fall out. In that sense ethnicity takes a back seat.
But, hey, what are you doing reading this? You could put the time to better use. Go grab yourself a copy of this touching, funny, entertaining and thought provoking story.
And if my opinion is insufficient others held these views.
‘Revealing in its exploration of cultural and generational conflicts and moving in its optimism.’ The Guardian
'Life Of A Banana is so refreshingly distinct. Read it, and you will soon find yourself wanting more.' The Daily Mail
‘PP Wong has blazed a trail for future British Chinese novelists... bursting with original and exciting flavours.’ The Independent
Please check out the rest of the blog tour, then rush out and grab yourself a copy of this book!