On the Docket: Candy by Mian Mian (Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter)

Genre: Contemporary Translated Fiction

Source: Library

The Publisher’s Plot Blurb:

An international literary phenomenon- now available for the first time in English translation -Candy is a blast of sex, drugs, and rock’ n’ roll that opens up to us a modern China we’ve never seen before.

First Impressions: I should probably confess that I’ve been reading this book since February. Very, very slowly. Candy, which I borrowed from the library, is officially and excessively overdue. I considered returning it to the library unfinished but I just hated the thought of wasting the hours spent reading the first 200 pages. So, I hunkered down and finished the other 70 pages. I had been procrastinating because I really wasn’t enjoying the book, but I really had to force myself to finish the last few chapters.

I am having a very difficult time describing this book. So, in an attempt to get my ideas out of my befuddled mind and onto the computer screen, here are a few random words that occurred to me: depressing, sad, futile, interesting, masochistic, frustrating, and confusing. I realize that many of these words are negative, and that’s because this story is undeniably a sad one. It follows Hong, a lost, drug addicted, poetically inclined girl as she navigates the new, modern China developing around her. She soon finds herself in a mutually abusive relationship with Saining, a manipulative musician she can’t seem to break up with, Kiwi, an equally manipulative sculptor who she falls in lust/love with… I lost track of many characters, as the narration seem to shift from Hong to Saining without any warning or explanation. Chapters were divided into random thoughts and jumped from narrator to unannounced narrator. We are introduced to an army of characters that, at first glance, appear to be part of the overall story. The surprising and most disappointing part of this novel was that each vignette seemed to arrive at an unusual and incomplete end. I suppose this is meant to mimic real life but the confusion continued to multiply.

The word “love” is thrown about so often that the reader becomes desensitized to its meaning to both the writer and the characters. Hong is clearly looking for “love” but she doesn’t know where to find it and doesn’t know what it looks like. She lives off of others and they live off of her… everyone uses everyone until there is nothing left.

Final Verdict: I’m torn. Mian Mian has been praised for her authenticity and honesty, and I’m certainly not going to deny that she has a knack with words. She pulls you into the deep sad depression of Candy without any effort at all. It’s rather unsettling. Unfortunately, I just felt like I was drowning every time I opened this book. It’s difficult to invest in masochistic characters, and feel like your attention as a reader is somehow important to the story. Hong and Saining and Apple and Kiwi all seem hell bent on destroying themselves and one another. How am I supposed to feel about this book? I really can’t say. I’m totally and completely stumped by Candy. It’s relevant yet… dark and unreadable.

Colour me confused.

Would you have abandoned this book? Should I have parted ways with this story? I would love to hear from others who have read Candy!