‘Waiting’ by Ha Jin

Waiting

Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 309 pages; 2000. Translated from the Chinese.

Set in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Ha Jin’s Waiting is a simple love story on one level and an in-depth exploration of human longing in a deeply restrictive society on the other.

Lin Kong, a city doctor, finds his arranged marriage to a simple but loyal peasant woman a burden, particularly as he is in love with a modern, educated woman, Manna Wu, with whom he works. His relationship with Manna, while unconsummated, is tender and heart warming, but as the years go by — 17 in fact — it becomes more and more strained: will Lin ever divorce his wife and, if he does, will the wait be worth it?

This is a lovely fable, beautifully written with poetic descriptions of the Chinese landscape and wildlife. It has a magical, dreamlike quality and is a fascinating insight into an otherwise “voiceless” society.

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