The Butcher's Wife

Li Ang

translated from the Chinese
Peter Owen 2002 [1983]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2012
Her father died of tuberculosis and her mother was evicted from the community after being raped, leaving Lin Shi in the hands of her uncle. When she grows up he marries her off to a pig butcher, who turns out to be a sadist who gets off on hearing her scream in pain.

Coping with her husband as best she can, Shi attempts to find an anchor by connecting to "Auntie" Ah-wang next door and joining in the religious and social life of the community, but her own ignorance and lack of confidence, the scourge of gossip, and the taint of her family history conspire against her. Eventually she is driven to madness and murder.

Inspired by a real case from the 1930s, The Butcher's Wife depicts the fate of a young woman trapped by both her individual circumstances and the confines of traditional Chinese society. It transcends any narrow categorisation, however, never lapsing into preaching and extending its reach with a number of fine character portraits and a vivid evocation of life in a small coastal town. The material is unsettling, but the presentation achieves a good balance of affect and the development is well paced.

September 2012

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%T The Butcher's Wife
%A Li Ang
%M Chinese
%F Goldblatt, Howard
%F Yeung, Ellen
%I Peter Owen
%D 2002 [1983]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 072061161X
%P 142pp