Red Sorghum, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty as the Chinese battle both the Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.

As the novel opens, a group of villagers, led by Commander Yu, the narrator's grandfather, prepare to attack the advancing Japanese.

Yu sends his 14-year-old son back home to get food for his men; but as Yu's wife returns through the sorghum fields with the food, the Japanese start firing and she is killed.

Her death becomes the thread that links the past to the present and the narrator moves back and forth recording the war's progress, the fighting between the Chinese warlords and his family's history.


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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

I read this for class and enjoyed it much more than I thought it would. Beautiful prose excellent story.

Review by

My view is perhaps poisoned by the NY Review of Books article about Yan's disinterest in standing up to the Chinese authorities. Through that prism I found Red Sorghum to be a crude piece of propaganda. The technique was to tease us with a dramatic event - the ambush of a Japanese convoy - and then digress to give us the back story of the village. Sorghum was the pervasive and repetitive metaphor. And by repetitive I mean repetitive. Yan dedicates his considerable descriptive abilities to the physical and that is where he excels but the story - which I could not finish (and that is rare) was bodice ripping melodrama in which all were bad or good. Over the 75 pages I read I felt I was in the hands of a narrator whose was intent upon pleasing (me?) (the authorities) someone and would resort to extraordinarily obvious techniques to achieve it. Cumulatively, it became unbearable.

Review by

This is the most heartbreaking book. It made me cringe all throughout. I will write a proper review later; for the moment, I am overwhelmed.