Once Upon A Time in the East

Once Upon A Time in the East : A Story of Growing up

4.13 (1,442 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

*Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography 2017*
*Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2017*
*Selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in the Sunday Times
*Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2018*

'This generation's Wild Swans' Daily Telegraph

'One of the most startling and fascinating memoirs I've read in recent years...a story of China' Libby Purves

'Impressive...moving...exhilarating' Financial Times

'Guo is rebellious, flamboyant and fundamentally optimistic...fascinating' Scotland on Sunday

'This stunning memoir picks up where Jung Chang's 1991 bestseller Wild Swans left off...This book will make your jaw drop, then clench in anger' Five stars, Sunday Telegraph

'Riveting...Guo is a bolder, angrier and more ambitious figure than her forebears' The Times


Xiaolu Guo meets her parents for the first time when she is almost seven. They are strangers to her.

When she is born her parents hand her over to a childless peasant couple in the mountains. Aged two, and suffering from malnutrition on a diet of yam leaves, they leave Xiaolu with her illiterate grandparents in a fishing village on the East China Sea. It's a strange beginning.

A Wild Swans for a new generation, Once Upon a Time in the East takes Xiaolu from a run-down shack to film school in a rapidly changing Beijing, navigating the everyday peculiarity of modern China: censorship, underground art, Western boyfriends. In 2002 she leaves Beijing on a scholarship to study in Britain. Now, after a decade in Europe, her tale of East to West resonates with the insight that can only come from someone who is both an outsider and at home.

Xiaolu Guo's extraordinary memoir is a handbook of life lessons. How to be an artist when censorship kills creativity and the only job you can get is writing bad telenovela scripts. How to be a woman when female babies are regularly drowned at birth and sexual abuse is commonplace. Most poignantly of all: how to love when you've never been shown how.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 33mm | 526g
  • Chatto & Windus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1784740675
  • 9781784740672
  • 707,743

Review Text

This generation's Wild Swans
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Review quote

Stunning...This book will make your jaw drop, then clench in anger. -- Helen Brown * Telegraph * Guo is rebellious, flamboyant and fundamentally optimistic...fascinating. -- Stuart Kelly * Scotland on Sunday * Riveting...Guo is an angrier, bolder, more ambitious figure than her forebears. * The Times * Utterly compelling... She writes superbly about her struggle to escape the constraints of gender, poverty and state interference. This extraordinary memoir will enhance her burgeoning reputation. -- Ian Critchley * Sunday Times * Aside from the fast-paced plot, this is most interesting for its probing portrayal of Guo's ambivalent relationship with her homeland... An impressive feature of this moving and often exhilarating book is the brutality of her portrait of her parents. -- Lara Feigel * Financial Times * This generation's Wild Swans * Daily Telegraph * A new Wild Swans. A compelling memoir fit to sit alongside Jung Chang's classic * Sunday Times * This autobiography is her account of fiery, artistic defiance and a testament to the act of storytelling as a way to break the silence... Guo writes in the audacious, restless and fragmented prose that has become her imprint: a feverish style that can be as merciless as the world she portrays. -- Megan Walsh * New Statesman *
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About Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo was born in south China. She studied at the Beijing Film Academy and published six books in China before moving to London in 2002. Her books include Village of Stone which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth which was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and I Am China which was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Her recent memoir, Once Upon a Time in the East, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award, the Jhalak Prize and the Rathbones Folio Award 2018, and was a Sunday Times Book of the Year.

In 2013 Xiaolu was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. She has directed several award-winning films including She, A Chinese, and documentaries about China and Britain. She was a judge for the Booker Prize in 2019, and is currently a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York.
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Rating details

1,442 ratings
4.13 out of 5 stars
5 37% (531)
4 43% (623)
3 17% (240)
2 3% (39)
1 1% (9)
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