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Book of the Month May 2020 (or whenever!) - 《草鞋湾》 by 曹文轩

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Xiao Kui

Thanks for the glossary. I'm familiar with 凑合 for make do, but don't think I've run across 将就, at least not in recent memory. (If I heard it in speech I probably would mistake it for 讲究 and be confused by the context.)  I imagine there are some distinctions in how the words are used and/or formality, so I'll be looking into that.  I ordered my book from jd last Thurs, so I'm still waiting for it to arrive in the US from China. 

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Lu

The investigation gets underway! I'm going to put the chapter summaries in spoiler tags from here on.

 

Chapter 4:

Spoiler

A threatening letter is delivered to 草鞋湾路108: Stop your investigation or we'll go after your cute little son. Signed: 汤水根, head of the kidnapping gang of 上海滩. Of course, detective Sha is not to be deterred and he takes 丘丘 to the market where 阿珠 was kidnapped, to find out more. They soon find a suspicious slanted alley, that also leads directly to the 盛 family's house...

 

Chapter 5:

Spoiler

沙丘克 and 沙小丘 visit the 盛 family. They learn that usually, servant 胡妈 is the one who goes to the market. And from behind a screen, a pair of eyes kept looking at 沙小丘 as his father was interviewing the family...

 

Some words:

奉劝    fèngquàn    offer a piece of advice (in a disapproving or even threatening manner)
轻举妄动    qīngjǔ-wàngdòng    act rashly, act blindly without thinking
撕毁    sīhuǐ    tear up, tear to shreds
泥鳅    níqiū    loach, mud fish (this fish has several English names and a German name, but no Dutch name, unfortunately for me)
扒手    páshǒu        pickpocket
诡秘    guǐmì    secretive, surreptitious, furtive (not to be confused with 闺蜜, but that shouldn’t be a problem when you take context into account)
秋千    qiūqiān    swing (the kind you can find in a playground)

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roddy

Just finished the first chapter - it's a fun little story so far, I quite like the set up. 

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somethingfunny

I've just read the first chapter too.  I'll probably average one chapter a day.

 

On 5/11/2020 at 4:13 PM, Lu said:

Cao Wenxuan really likes writing about birds.

 

Ha! Yes... it would seem so.

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roddy

It's got a nice melancholy feel to it - a sort-of idyllic childhood, minus a mother, oh, and with people shooting at you now and then. 

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somethingfunny

Chapter 2 was an improvement on chapter 1.  Less birds, more detective stuff.

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Lu

Chapter 6:

Spoiler

沙丘克 calls his friend with the police, 梁正方, to go arrest 胡妈, who is planning to run away to Suzhou. Since the situation is getting dangerous, he takes out his Browning M1935. 沙小丘 sees the gun and is fascinated; 沙丘克 tells him all about the gun but also tells him in no uncertain terms he is never to touch it again.

 

Chapter 7:

Spoiler

胡妈 has been arrested and makes a full confession of how she kidnapped 阿珠. Her nephew 小四子 is a kidnapper (apparently that is a real profession) and put her up to it, to sell the child.

 

Chapter 8:

Spoiler

沙丘克 goes to Suzhou, presumably to find out more about the kidnapping ring, and leaves 沙小丘 in the care of 马大伯, with lots of math homework to finish before he gets back. Little Sha does not like math problems. Instead, he goes to the roof and makes paper planes to fly with the pigeons that are flying over. Not a lot of detectiving in this chapter, just about 沙小丘 and his feelings.

 

No vocab list today because I don't feel like making one. Lots of gun words on page 56, if you ever feel in need of gun vocab.

 

ETA: @murrayjames made a vocab list for chapter 6 here and for chapter 7-8 here.

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roddy
7 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

Chapter 2 was an improvement on chapter 1.  Less birds, more detective stuff.

Just finished it - still a fair amount of bird stuff. Or absence of birds. I fully expect the book to end with eagles plucking the young detective from danger. 

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somethingfunny

Well, absolute scenes in chapter 3. Obviously these are exceptional circumstances, but I’m not sure I’d appreciate that kind of behaviour in my own home.

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Lu

沙丘克 doesn't exactly appreciate it either, but what can you do? Well, you could say yes and then go back on your word the minute everyone is out of the house again, I guess. But that would be pretty cold-hearted.

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roddy

Man, now I want to stop working and read Chapter 3.

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Lu

Chapter 9, a very short chapter:

Spoiler

The minute 马大伯 turns his back, 沙小丘 sneaks out of the house to do his math homework in the park. He is kidnapped by three men, who drag him into a riksha and ride off. This is fortunately witnessed by some other children who are playing in the park, and they tell 马大伯. 沙丘克 calls his police friend 梁正方 and immediately comes back from Suzhou.

 

The police immediately cordon off the area and I find it a little bit weird: the police seem make a lot more effort for the kidnapped child of their good friend the master detective than they seem to have made for little 阿珠.

 

Chapter 10, a very long chapter:

Spoiler

沙小丘 is kidnapped and locked up in a house not far from where he lives. He is treated well: 汤水根, the boss of the kidnapping gang, doesn't want him harmed, because then 沙丘克 would defintely go after them. 沙小丘 is pretty devious and finds a way to get word out, using his paper plane skill.

 

Some words:

黄包车    huángbāochē    riksha
颠三倒四    diānsān-dǎosì    incoherent, disorderly, confused
肆无忌惮    sì wú jìdàn    unrestrained, unbridled; unscrupulous
劫持    jiéchí    to kidnap, to hold under duress; to hijack
芦苇荡    lúwěidàng    reed marsh
沓    dá    measure word for pile (of paper etc)
煞有介事    shà yǒu jièshì    go through the motions, pretend to take it seriously

 

About this whole kidnapping gang thing: I wonder about the business sense this kidnapping makes. 阿珠 is clearly from a well-off and attentive family: they live in a house with a garden with a swing in it, she has a full set of parents and grandparents plus an assortment of aunts and uncles, so the case immediately gets a lot of attention. This was Shanghai in the 1940s, if you want to sell a child, wouldn't it have been smarter to just pluck a poor orphan out of the gutter, clean them up a bit and sell them? Or maybe we find out later that there was more to it.

 

And I liked chapter 10. Little Sha thinks on his feet in a crisis, it's fun to see.

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Lu

Chapter 11, another short one:

Spoiler

沙小丘 is freed, the kidnappers are arrested, all without further ado. Most of the chapter is big Sha and little Sha talking about little Sha's experiences. 沙丘克 wants to go and tell the Shengs that he's giving back the case, because his own son being kidnapped has really spooked him. But then as he talks to 丘丘, he realises how scared 阿珠 must be and how much her parents must miss her, so in the end he and 丘丘 set off for Suzhou together.

 

Only one word, because there aren't really any difficult words in this chapter:

画板    huàbǎn    painting board (no, I have no idea why either. I guess we'll find out in the next chapter)

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somethingfunny

Isn't the letter in chapter 4 essentially an admission of guilt.  I suppose this is a children's story...

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roddy

I did like that - a threatening letter, signed. But as you say, children's story. 

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somethingfunny

Yeah, "Change of plan 丘丘, we're going round to Mr. Tang's house.  Now where did I put my gun...?"

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Lu
On 5/17/2020 at 7:28 AM, somethingfunny said:

Isn't the letter in chapter 4 essentially an admission of guilt. I suppose this is a children's story...

Yeah, children's story. Or it's a 'I'm so powerful you can't do anything about it even though you know exactly who I am' threat.

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roddy

Well, we've got a Chekov's Gun! Now let's see if it gets fired...

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