Because the writing is so good, the characters and situations are clearly seen and it is the reader's imagination, interpretation, that supplies the descriptions and adjectives. Life in the country was more relaxed all around, the extreme rigidity of the Party not even extending to consistently enforcing the one-child policy. And that is the environment of the love affair of Lin Kong and Manna Wu. Anything that is not encouraged or at least condoned by the Party is interpreted as disease and must be cut down at source.
I read many reviews about this book talking about how none of characters are likable, except for the simple peasant ex-wife of Lin's.
thailand is pretty much awesome, i like going there a lot, as long as you stay away from touristy places like phuket and don't go to bangkok. people get sucked into bangkok and never return. so, i'm in bangkok (of course) and it's hard not to get sucked into a place like that, you know? khao san road is like... it's like a mecca for weary travelers in southeast asia, smack dab in the middle of the city, with hostels every two feet, nice old women offering to do your laundry for ridiculously cheap prices, massage parlors, restaurants with food you can pronounce in your native tongue (they try so hard, but still, what's with the corn on my pizza? but there's something about the relief in being back in "civilization" that makes people go crazy. see after traveling in crazy places, keeping your guard up, trying not to get malaria, or lost, or eaten by wild animals, it's nice to have a safe zone filled with other tourists. logically, the first thing you do when you get to this zone is find a beer and try to one up someone else with a story of how you almost got malaria, or lost, or eaten by wild animals. i was going to throw the shrimp across the floor of the bar so it could run after it. turns out, when you get bit by a cat in thailand and then casually mention it to your travel physician in an email, ya know, because you want to make sure the tetanus shot kicked in before you left, well... people go crazy. like county department of health people. they want you to come home so you can do boring stuff like be safe, and get a post-exposure rabies vaccine. (not the rabies-crazy, that doesn't kick in for 2 weeks. the "i can't stand to watch another korean soap opera on this 3x3 inch screen while a small japanese child throws hello kitty jelly beans at me for the next 12 hours" crazy). so i thought, if all these people came to this page on goodreads to read a review of the book, angry that they had wasted their time with such a long and unfufilling narrative like "waiting"...
It's stuffed to bursting with Western stereotypes of Chinese people: the happily subservient, foot-bound woman; the sexually insatiable Asian beauty; the emasculated, impotent male. Ha Jin is deliberately writing a book targeted at a Western audience, designed to provide non-threatening images of China to the Western reader who can take comfort in the stamp of "authenticity" conferred by Ha Jin's Chinese background. By way of contrast, note that in Tales of Hulan River a Chinese novel/memoir written by a Chinese woman in Chinese for a Chinese audience and focused on the plight of Chinese women living in a patriarchal, misogynistic societythe writer, the daughter of a rich family and a child around 1900, did not have her feet bound, and such practices were more prevalent in her social class and at that earlier time. (view spoiler)Even worse, while purporting to provide a pro-feminist perspectiveShuyu's long-suffering fidelity is eventually rewarded, while Lin Kong's infidelity is punishedthis too is no more than a tissue-thin, false pandering to his target demographic of Western housewives.
And while it is true that sometimes "less is more" (as with Hemingway or, say, William Carlos Williams), sometimes "less is simply less".
Do you even know what happiness is, Lin?
That was an element, but this book is truly about a man, Lin Kong, who cannot make up his mind how to live his life, and as a result finds himself always waiting for his life to begin. His mistress, if you can truly call her that, is a well-educated woman with whom he works, but he can never commit himself to her seriously enough to divorce his wife and begin a true life with her. I felt varying emotional reactions to each of these three people at different times in the story, for like all human beings, they are complex and not always likable.
During the two decades that elapse in "Waiting", the political and social climate slowly changes as the three main characters age. The book is mainly a character study of Lin and Manna.