Our volunteer Jade Barr is excited to bring to you her thoughts on one of the books in our library collection: The Vagrants by Yiyun Li —
March 21, 1979, it’s the spring equinox, and a young woman, Gu Shan is scheduled for execution as a counterrevolutionary after ten years of imprisonment. The injustice of her treatment and death, alongside the horrors she had enacted on the people of Muddy River as a Red Guard, bubble up to the surface in an intricate tangle of relationships, bringing together her victims as well as those seeking political change, and even those whose like Tong, whose life might have never intersected with hers beyond the execution itself in a kinder world. Meticulously written so that no moment or word goes to waste, The Vagrants is a slow, intricate story of pain and of disparate people coming together, interests uniting and diverging.
Each character comes with their own deep internal world though none can offer much comfort to the reader. They are full, realised beings, but each flawed and deeply hurting in a time of upheaval and struggle. But it’s hard not to be swept up with them, even when it’s hard to keep reading on. Sometimes especially when it’s hard to keep reading on.
The Vagrants is an unflinching, sometimes brutal novel set in difficult times with difficult characters. Even so, it’s a very rewarding read for the more scrupulous of readers, with an eye for appreciating the work that’s gone into it. But even for those who are not, The Vagrants remains a compelling read.
Compelled to read this book? It is available to lend in our library. Our library is opened on most Wednesdays 12:00-19:00 (check our EVENTS page for more details) All are welcome to visit and explore the treasures in reading whilst enjoying some delicious teas.