** Kinder than Solitude by Yiyun Li


Yihun Li is a master of gloomy. Kinder Than Solitude is considerably less gloomy than The Vagrants, but still manages to drag three young people for 300 pages of assorted sadness, guilt, and suspicion after one of their relatives is mysteriously poisoned, probably, but we will never know for sure, by one of them. The interest of the novel lies in the characters rather than the plot, of which there is not much despite the transatlantic moves of two of the main characters. I especially enjoyed the depiction of the young teenager sent to Beijing to live with distant relatives and finding herself quite cut off from warmth or love, but the rest of the story I found rather tedious, and the language that critics called sumptuous I thought verged on awkward at times, as if it were a translated work.

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