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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Published May 4th, 2023 by Allen & Unwin
Literary Fiction, Humorous Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the beautiful and moving, The Funeral Cryer. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Allen & Unwin for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

***’A refreshing perspective on mourning, as well as a moving tale of a social outcast’ – i-D Magazine***

An Yu’s Braised Pork meets Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in this unforgettable, tragi-comic tale of one woman’s mid-life re-awakening in contemporary rural China.

The Funeral Cryer long ago accepted the mundane realities of her life: avoided by fellow villagers because of the stigma attached to her job as a professional mourner and under-appreciated by The Husband, whose fecklessness has pushed the couple close to the brink of break-up. But just when things couldn’t be bleaker, The Funeral Cryer takes a leap of faith – and in so doing things start to take a surprising turn for the better . . .

Dark, moving and wry, The Funeral Cryer is both an illuminating depiction of a ‘left behind’ society – and proof that it’s never too late to change your life.

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MY REVIEW:

“I almost live in isolation, with very little movement. Sometimes I was even suspicious of myself. Was I really carrying something contagious or lethal in my body? Maybe I was. I did breathe in a deadly atmosphere regularly at funerals.”

The Funeral Cryer isn’t an easy book to review. A truly unique story, this touching exploration of identity, mourning and social isolation follows the mid-life awakening of one woman in contemporary rural China.

Living in a loveless, unhappy marriage, the funeral cryer is resigned to her mundane life in the small village where she was born and raised. A good husband is one who doesn’t hit you, which hers doesn’t, but he also never speaks a kind word and they are just two people who sleep in the same bed each night rather than partners or friends. It is a lonely and bleak existence, something that is magnified by the superstition surrounding her profession that makes her an outcast. We never learn the funeral cryer’s name. In fact, she isn’t even sure the others in her village even remember it as they now only refer to her as that woman who cries at funerals. This namelessness adds to the sense of a lack of identity and belonging surrounding her, and makes her feel all the more distant and disconnected from both the reader and the world. It is a life filled with sadness, guilt and isolation, emotions that permeate the pages along with an atmosphere of melancholy, monotony and acceptance as she  evaluates and looks back on her life, wondering how things might be now had she taken different paths and contemplating an array of questions she has no one to answer. 

From the start this story avoids feeling overshadowed by any of its sombre or negative emotions thanks to Wenyan Lu’s exquisite and at times almost poetic prose. It is also helped by the narration continuously and seamlessly moving between a tale of heartrending tragedy and dark comedy as the funeral cryer finally makes choices for her own happiness and begins her reawakening. I was rooting for her to seize something for herself and rejoiced as she discovered parts of life, and herself, that had lain dormant for so long.

Profoundly moving, wistful and thought-provoking, The Funeral Cryer is a curiously beautiful story that will linger long after reading.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Originally from Shanghai, China, Wenyan Lu is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2020. She holds a Master of Studies in Creative Writing as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. Her unpublished historical novel The Martyr’s Hymn was also longlisted for SI Leeds Literary Prize 2018 and Bridport First Novel Prize 2019.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Watertones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

*All purchase links are affiliate links