At the Water's Edge
Xu Zechen's third novel At the Water's Edge was one of the most-talked about books of 2010, and was nominated for the Mao Dun award (China's equivalent of the Booker). The latest in a set of stories set on Xu's imaginary Flower Street, a bustling market area populated by canal men, traders and prostitutes, the story follows sixteen-year-old Little One Chen as he struggles to cast off his diminutive nickname and become an adult, all the while dreaming of studying martial arts with the great masters of Shaolin Temple, and fumbling through his first experiences of love with the daughter of a sickly former prostitute who has come in search of his father, the famous doctor.
This is a classic coming-of-age story that explores the meanings of honour and decency, as the young characters struggle to find themselves in the world. Charmingly written, Xu's prose is delicate without being cloying, showing his deep sympathy for the confused Little Chen and the brave Indigo.