Thursday, September 29

Book Review: An Empty Room

Title: An Empty Room

Author: Mu Xin

Pages: 144

Summary: An Empty Room is the first book by the celebrated Chinese writer and artist Mu Xin to appear in English. A cycle of thirteen evocative stories written while Mu Xin was in exile, the collection recalls the structural beauty of Hemingway's In Our Time and the imagistic power f Kawabata's palm-of-the-hand stories. From the ordinary (a bus trip) to the unusual (Buddhist halos) to the wise (Goethe, Lao Zi), Mu Xins's wandering "I" interweave plots with philosophical grace and spiritual profundity. From indelible elements - a small blue bowl that becomes a symbol of vanishing childhood; notes scribbled by an imprisoned painter in a race against fading memory; an abandoned temple room, the site of a mysterious love story - Mu Xin builds an astonishing, linked bildungsroman. An Empty Room showcases the creative mind of one of China's most extraordinary living writers, who "has rejuvenated the Chinese language for our times."

Titles in the collection include;

The Moment When Childhood Vanished
Xia Mingzhu: A Bright Pearl
An Empty Room
Fong Fong No. 4
Notes from Underground
The Boy Next Door
Eighteen Passengers on a Bus
Quiet Afternoon Tea
Fellow Passengers
Weimar in Early Spring
Tomorrow, I'll Stroll No More
The Windsor Cemetery Diary

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed this short story collection, it's probably one of my favourite short story collections I've read in a long time, as there were very few short stories I didn't like. In fact, in fact this may have been a case where I liked them but some I enjoyed far more than others. The short stories are about various topics, some are shocking, others are a coming of age story, but all were wonderfully told. Each focuses on a different topic, and each are wonderfully written. Some of my favourites were; Xia Mingzhu, An Empty Room, Notes from the Underground, Eighteen Passengers on a Bus (this one I predicted the ending, but I was still shocked by it), Notes from the Underground. The moment when childhood vanished was also well done. I liked all of them, but those are some of my favourites.

Some issues I had, and it may be issues do to translations, but I found typos or maybe just mistranslated words, there were a few times words didn't seem to fit with the rest of the paragraph, I wonder if it's due to translation issues. Otherwise, it was a great short story collection and a very enjoyable read. The author has an amazing talent to give you the full story, in such a short amount of time and leaves the reader satisfied in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especial if you enjoy Chinese Literature, then this would be the perfect book for you.

What to read next: I'd read more Chinese Short Fiction, I don't know any authors, but I think I may check some out.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Fall into Reading Challenge


  1. I really have gotten more comfortable with short stories in the past few months, and I think this collection sounds wonderful. It is high praise indeed to say that there were no stories in this collection that you disliked. I might have to check this one out at some point. Fantastic review, Jules!

  2. Zibilee - This past year, I've found myself really enjoying short story collections. This was a good collection yes. Some weren't as good, but I did like them all. It's worth checking out, although may be hard to find, I just saw it sitting with the "X" authors at the book store and snagged it up.