Original title: Erguna he you an
Edition Language: English
Genres: Historical Fiction
At the end of the twentieth-century an old woman sits among the birch trees and thinks back over her life, her loves, and the joys and tragedies that have befallen her family and her people. She is a member of the Evenki tribe who wander the remote forests of north-eastern China with their herds of reindeer, living in close sympathy with nature at its most beautiful and cruel.
In The Last Quarter of the Moon, prize-winning novelist Chi Zijian, creates a dazzling epic about an extraordinary woman bearing witness not just to the stories of her tribe but also to the transformation of China.
I can't express how much I've loved this book. It has taken me to a lost world I know very little about and made it vivid. I loved getting to know the characters but was heartbroken as each one came to a tragic end. It was a very slow story, but I did enjoy it, thought I was reading it for a couple of months. It was great to learn about the Evinki tribe and culture, and how it interacted with the world from its isolation. I had little knowledge of the Evinkis prior to this reading and it is a good opportunity to learn something new.
Frankly speaking, I found this book rather slow at the beginning and I put it down for a week or so. Then I took it up again, and I'm so glad I did. It draws you in until you feel immersed in a different way of life, one which is wholly human, but completely foreign to most of us. What I found very moving was their stoicism, and that was quite different from fatalism. There is a great deal of shamanism in the story and it is very important for the Evenki; it reveals a way of thinking and believing; there are lots of spiritual events happening. People in the story constantly see omens or have forebodings (mostly about deaths); so their views on nature and balance with it are quite unique and refreshing.
What impressed me the most was the emotional detachment of the narrator. Tragedies happen frequently (as they do in life) but the emotional turmoil that must have accompanied life was completely omitted from the narrative, with events (big and small, happy and distressing) being reported in a calm manner with very little reflection on the emotions of the narrator. That makes the story twice more dramatic and tragic as we have to fill in the emotions missing and guess what the people were going through at this or that particular time of their lives.
The book can be called a saga as it covers multiple generations of one particular tribe and how its story is going to an end. As this way of life cannot be truly preserved and “civilization” is taking over dissolving particular ways of life that were maintained by multiple generations.