Tuesday 21 August 2012

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa

I first heard about this book in its original French when Shan Sa won the 2001 Prix Goncourt des Lycéens for La Joueuse de Go or The Girl Who Played Go.  The Prix Goncourt des Lycéens is a literary prize voted for by secondary school students.

Shan Sa was born in China and didn't move to France until she had finished secondary school herself so winning a literary prize in her adopted language was no small achievement.

I read it for that reason and because I wanted to read a book set in China.  It wasn't until I'd finished the book that I realised that the format of the story was based on the game of Go, a very tactical that game I don't really know or quite understand.

It is set in China, Manchuria, at the time of Japanese occupation.  The chapters alternate telling the story of the girl and her opponent in Go, a Japanese soldier.  The chapters mirror the conflict in the game as well as the conflict between the girl and the soldier, and between China and Japan.  It wasn't the easiest read, but a fascinating glimpse into a part of Chinese history I hardly knew, nevertheless.

The Girl Who Played Go from Amazon.com

The Girl Who Played Go from Amazon.co.uk