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Cries in the Drizzle    by Yu Hua order for
Cries in the Drizzle
by Yu Hua
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

Cries in the Drizzle is the first novel by Yu Hua, an esteemed Chinese author raised during the Cultural Revolution. This is also the period from which the novel's protagonist Sun Guanglin starts his bizarre childhood.

Sun is the middle of three boys and - one concludes - this is well before the one child rule. But still he is unwanted and is frequently abused by his father and brother. At six, he is given away to an army officer and his wife who can't have children. However, at age twelve, after his new father dies, he finds his way back to his original village in rural China.

The book reads as a series of episodes in two parts; first, as the seemingly adopted child and later as the prodigal son. But since his return is coincident with the family house burning to the ground it doesn't get much better from there. This is not a happy book.

The friends and relationships that Sun makes are all very interesting, if not a little too flamboyant. They all end in poor circumstances. His best friend dies from a brain tumor; another is humiliated and jailed, while a third becomes a prostitute. But don't let this stop you from reading the book - through all this, Sun not only survives, he does extremely well and eventually enters Beijing University, something few Chinese are able to do.

I had expected to learn more of growing up in the reign of Chairman Mao but there is little of the dynamics of Chinese society. This may be an element of the rural nature of the book - however, at one point this is challenged when a character proclaims to an elder 'This is the new society, not the old one'. It seems that there will be plenty of opportunity to read new works by Chinese authors emerging from a growing literary society.

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