Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Based on a novel written by Dai Sijie, who also directed the film.
ISBN: 978-0385722209
Publisher – Anchor (October 29, 2002)

I read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress soon after it came out.  A few years later, we drove more than sixty miles to see the Mandarin language movie. Checking Amazon recently, I saw 264 customer reviews for the book with an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars. This short novel spent twenty-three weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. The author, born in China, moved to France where he learned to read, speak and write French. The book was originally written in French and translated into English by Ina Rilke.

The story is about two likable, teenage boys and their struggle after being banished to a peasant village for “re-education” during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Sons of doctors and dentists, the boys work at muscling buckets of excrement up the mountainside and mining coal. Then there is the little seamstress of the title, whom Luo, one of the boys, falls in love with. He dreams of transforming the seamstress from a simple country girl into a sophisticated lover. He succeeds beyond his expectations, but the result is not what he expected.

This link goes to the Mandarin language DVD with English subtitles. Discover more Chinese cinema through Joan Chen’s Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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4 Responses to Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

  1. chennicole2013 says:

    Lloyd,thanks for this brief reminder of a delightful book and movie. It was a while ago, but I remember liking them both very much.

  2. Kimberly says:

    This is certainly one of my favorite novels set in China and the movie was well done and truly captured the essence of the novel as well.. The most appealing aspect of this novel for me was the idea of empowerment that literature can have upon an individual. As readers, I think many of us can list one or two books that have somehow changed our lives in one form or another.

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