Reviews for Chinese Whiskers
Booklist Reviews 2012 November #1
Major events in recent Chinese history are experienced first paw, as it were, by two precocious kittens who find relative comfort in the home of foreigners living in Beijing on the eve of the 2008 Olympics. After the gregarious Soyabean is abruptly taken away from the old woman who loves her, and the timid Tofu is rescued from a filthy garbage can, both cats land in the lap of luxury in the household of Mr. and Mrs. A. Their security is threatened, however, when a mysterious virus--a disease erroneously thought to be spread by cats and dogs--spreads throughout the country. While Tofu is captured in a roundup of city animals, Soyabean enjoys national fame as spokescat for a new brand of cat food, which, ultimately is found to contain lethal amounts of melamine. In filtering these international scandals through the eyes of lowly house cats, award-winning journalist turned novelist Aiyar cleverly illustrates how global circumstances can impact every strata of society. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #1
Two cats in Beijing witness recent events--the SARS epidemic, rapid industrialization, the Olympic Games--from the comfort of their Hutong courtyard. When Soyabean is still a kitten in the Xu household, he is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. A, waiguo Ren, or foreigners, who live in a large courtyard house in old Beijing. Soon after, Tofu arrives, a dustbin cat, rescued by the animal league and brought to the courtyard as company for Soyabean. The two cats have escaped a life of hardship in a country that regards pampered pets with suspicion, though with a rapidly growing middle class, that is beginning to change. Narrated in alternating chapters by Soyabean, a handsome, lazy ginger tom, and Tofu, a small dark cat who prefers the world from her perch in the courtyard's pomegranate tree, the novel cat-walks between credibility and fantasy, just as these animal stories do. The cats understand human speech and other animals, and though their knowledge is limited, their intelligence isn't; not unlike the way we view our pets anyway. Soyabean grows into a beautiful fat cat, so much so that he's hired to star in a cat-food commercial. Soyabean's already considerable ego (and girth) grows as he becomes a star for Maomi Deluxe. Tofu is suspicious, and rightly so; she overhears Xiao Xu confess that Maomi Deluxe is made from melamine, and cats are getting sick. One evening, Tofu is kidnapped by a band of rogues convinced cats are the cause of the SARS epidemic. She escapes the van and finds shelter with provincial laborers. Will Tofu find her way home? Will Soyabean be able to warn the nation about Maomi Deluxe? A gentle happiness abounds in this simple tale, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing China. Modern consumerism clashes with traditional Chinese culture, as observed by two cats in this small charmer. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 July #1
Middle-class Soyabean is tended by a traditional grandma, while Tofu was born in a trash can. But these two pussies are adopted by foreigners and live together in a courtyard house in one of Beijing's traditional hutong neighborhoods. Then a serious illness sweeps the country--and cats are blamed. Award-winning journalist Pallavi lived in Beijing for six years and reported on China for the Indian press, so this is more than a charming fable. [Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Express Reviews
Two Chinese cats--one born on the streets, the other to an orderly middle-class life--find their lives intertwined when they are adopted by the same couple. Told from the felines' point of view, the narrative alternates between the two cats. Through their eyes, we see the corruption and greed of small men and experience the fearful overreaction of humans to a virus carried by civet cats and the way it disrupts the animals' lives. We watch the building of the great stadium for the Olympics and observe the way the migrant workers, poor though they may be, manage to maintain a modicum of self-respect. The reader may wonder how much of the story is based on Pallavi's six years as a journalist in China (which he recounted in Smoke and Mirrors); the couple in the book are called Mr. and Mrs. A. Verdict While the cats are more anthropomorphized than in many novels that treat them as main characters, they are still engaging without being cloying. And the author paints a vivid portrait of the daily routines in the hutong neighborhoods of old Beijing. Fans of animal stories, as well as readers with a curiosity about daily life in modern China, will enjoy this. [See Prepub Alert, 6/11/12.]--Pamela O'Sullivan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib.(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.