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Book Review – To the Edge of the Sky, by Gao Anhua

To the Edge of the Sky

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By Anhua Gao

Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter more than most. Just like this book clearly shows.

To the Edge of the Sky is a not very well known book about the life of Anhua Gao, a girl growing up in Maoist China, and through the course of the Cultural Revolution. From being the appraised daughter of two revolutionary martyrs’ to an orphan, then to the disloyal and denounced citizen by her spiteful elder sister, to abused wife of a forceful husband, Anhua certainly didn’t have the happiest life. Many years later, Anhua wrote To the Edge of the Sky to show us the entire true story from a real person living in those dreadful times.

To me, Anhua really illustrated every aspect of her life and every event that happened, even the little ones that didn’t really hold any factual worth, like when she stayed with her family at the blossoming gardens, or the interesting fact that her father was a great renowned calligrapher in those early days before the Revolution truly began. It was these little things that, all in all, really made reading this book a diamond among gems. Truthfully speaking, it was those detailed accounts of past friends and classmates and the tales of woe (from suicides for various reasons-depression, anxiety, and in some cases madness-to banishment to the harsh countryside, where the crops never grew and the rain never fell.) that really pulled this idea through. For a first time writer whose native language is not even English, this a brilliant piece of work-much more than I can say about other English-speaking authors, of their identities I will leave anonymous…

Something that also struck to me as being-well, there’s no other word for it really but awesome-was the emotional rollercoaster-on a massive scale. I have never seen a real person go through so much trauma and pain after so much happiness and luxury, and still come out living on the other side. Especially when she had to leave her young, half-starved daughter to go to jail (ironically named WaWaQiao Prison-or, in English, ‘Doll Bridge’ Prison-oh the irony) –I was practically crying through that whole chapter. It’s like reading a Hollywood script, but emphasised about a hundred times more; you expect it to still be cheesy, ironic, and always a happy ending-To the Edge of the Sky shows it doesn’t just have the juicy catchphrases and the punch headlines, but also a believable backstory and an incredibly vivid setting-whereas books such as Harry Potter and the like just go out full on without even thinking for a second about ‘why did this happen, why did she decide to do this, would you really do this for someone?’

This book was challenging and traumatic at times, and also quite a long read (though a good book to me needs quality and quantity-a book’s just not a book if it’s two pages long, is it?), so for 15 year-olds and over, though anyone younger than that can feel free to challenge yourself and stroll through the book at whatever pace you please. Great for a plane or a long train journey, it’ll pass the time in a flash. A simply irresistible masterpiece to treasured again and again.

Also, for those who are wondering, Anhua Gao then emigrated to England after marrying an Englishman, and is now currently good and well in the UK as a working women.

So, that’s To the Edge of the Sky in a nutshell. I hope this review’s made you want to read it, and if not…read it again!

Game reviews and film reviews coming soon. Also, if you’re lucky you might get to see me play some nooby let’s-plays of Skyrim. Maybe.

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