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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi #bookreview


Translated by Darryl Sterk

On a quest to explain how and why his father mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago, a writer embarks on an epic journey in search of a stolen bicycle and soon finds himself immersed in the strangely overlapping histories of the Japanese military during World War II, Lin Wang, the oldest elephant who ever lived, and the secret world of antique bicycle collectors in Taiwan. The result is a surprising and moving meditation on memory, loss, and the bonds of family.

Award-winning novelist Wu Ming-Yi is regarded in Taiwan as the leading writer of his generation. His work, noted for its depth, complexity and vividly observed natural detail, has been compared to that of distinguished writers as diverse as Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, W.G. Sebald, David Mitchell and Yann Martel.

Publisher;  Text Publishing

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This is an unusual, but fascinating story - a mix of fact and fiction beautifully woven together by the author as the search for his father, who disappeared 20 years ago, through the medium of the bicycle his father disappeared on. He thinks that if he can track down the bicycle, he might be able to find out why his father upped and left the family so long ago.

What follows is a highly detailed book describing the family, their upbringing and the importance of the humble bicycle 'the iron horse' to many families - how it helped in day to day life, the use of bikes during the war and the connection people attached to such items.

The author uses so many engrossing layers to his story, through people he meets on his search and how the stories they told showed connections to bikes and their own journeys. It looks back at life during wars, the power of photography, the importance of elephants to name a few - and my favourite being a focus on the Karen tribe! A lot of stories could have felt very 'wordy' or overdone with so many topics introduced throughout, but as this is such a gentle book the story never feels bogged down and flows beautifully.

It's a story of overcoming loss, of how we attach great importance to simple objects and looks back at some shocking childhood memories and how the quest in searching for his father allows him to start questioning so much he encounters and allows him to learn and fill that void that is missing.

It is no surprise to see how central the use of bicycles were and are to so many, especially in this part of the world and I loved reading the touching stories from the surrounding characters who would open up to him when he tried to trace a certain bike and showed the importance of connecting with people one on one to hear the stories which would have otherwise gone untold.

Definitely something a little out of the ordinary and a truly captivating story that I'm very glad to have read.

thank you to netgalley and the publishers for the e-copy in return for a fair and honest review.

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