What I assumed to be a quirky title The Life Of A Banana was what attracted me to this book, but to refer to it as ‘quirky’ is so wrong; this is a touching, funny yet sometimes harrowing narrative. This is a book that clearly reminds us that we cannot stereotype or assume that we know what other people are going through. It is one I feel everyone must read; it is beautiful, witty but at times uneasy.
The novel is called The Life Of A Banana as it tells the story of Xing Li, a 12-year-old girl of Chinese heritage that is born and brought up in the UK; what some Chinese people call a banana – yellow on the outside and white on the inside. When her Mother dies in a freak accident, Xing Li is taken to live with her Grandma; a strict, domineering and sometimes brutal woman.
Still trying to come to terms with the loss of her Mother, continuously berated by her Grandma for being too English, Xing Li is forced to start a new school where she is bullied for being Chinese. This is a story that confronts the issues of racism, identity but also society’s need to pigeonhole by nationality and ethnicity.
I start to daydream about what it would be like to grow up in a country where I am not seen as different. Somewhere where I am popular and don’t have to explain my name or that I’m Chinese. It would be a really cool place where Asians and Jamaicans are just seen as doctors, school girls and business women. Not “the Chinese doctor”, “the Asian school girl” or “the black businesswomen of the year”. It would be a country where I was not seen as “ethnic” or “exotic” but just “me”. That would be great!
Originally published in 2014, The Life Of The Banana was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize in Fiction in 2015. In June 2018 to celebrate a decade of publishing, Legend Press released a new edition of this powerful, poignant novel. Hence I’m really pleased to have been invited to take part in the blog tour to mark its re-release. I loved reading and reviewing this book; I really feel I have learnt and grown from it. Especially as the new edition includes an essay from the author PP Wong about why she felt compelled to write it.
The other day I posted a blog post about the #Vote100Books, a list of great books written by women in the last century. In my post I mention how we’ve been advised to come up with our own list of great books by great female authors. Well The Life Of A Banana is on my list. PP Wong has written a modern masterpiece and her voice as writer needs to be heard as she confronts issues in our society that sadly still exist. Another thing I loved about this book is that plot is not predictable – it covers challenging issues that nobody should face, let alone a 12-year-old girl.
Thank you Legend Press for sending me an advance copy of the re-publication in return for an honest review. Thank you also for inviting Novel Delights to take part in the blog tour. It has been a real pleasure, especially as I loved Xing Li as a character as well as her older brother Lai Ker and their relationship together.
This is my review of The Life Of A Banana. If you are intrigued by this book (which I hope you are) and want to read the reviews of my fellow book bloggers too, please take a look below at the blog tour. But more than anything, please go and buy the book as it gives you a real understanding of human nature and the society we live in. It is available from Amazon now, so go and buy a copy and let me know what you think.
Re-publication date of The Life Of A Banana: 1 June 2018.