Braised Pork by An Yu

Sparsely written and permeated by a sense of surreality Braised Pork had the potential of being a wonderfully weird tale. Alas, Braised Pork falls short of its premise. I found the story to be painfully slow-going, the main character failed to drew me in, and, ultimately, the novel left me feeling rather unimpressed (in ‘was that all?’ kind of way).

Set in Beijing, Braised Pork tells the story of Jia Jia, a married woman in her 30s who one day walks into her apartment’s bathroom to find her husband’s dead body. Near him lies a sketch of a peculiar figure of a fish-man. An Yu explores not only how widowhood is perceived in contemporary Beijing but of how her husband’s strange death affects Jia Jia. She begins seeing the owner of a bar she begins frequenting, but her mind and dreams are occupied by images of the fish-man. Jia Jia embarks on a physical and spiritual journey by traveling to Tibet, the place her husband visited prior to his sudden death. Here Jia Jia encounters some eccentric characters who may help her find the truth behind the fish-man.
The pacing of the novel made me put it aside quite a few times. I first started reading this back in August of 2020 but only managed to finish it now, in March 2021. There was nothing that stood out to me, which is surprising, given that it had many weird elements. But these were presented in such a mundane fashion (mostly in dreams and flashes) that I was not all that intrigued by the fish-man or the death of Jia Jia’s husband. Jia Jia was not a character I particularly liked or cared for. I found her curt and rude, especially when speaking to workers. Her relationship with the barman takes the backseat around the halfway mark and she seems all of a sudden taken by a random guy she meets in Tibet. The narrative unfolds lazily, offering random exchanges now and again, but these were often brief and ultimately uninteresting. The ending was particularly unsatisfying, as all of a sudden, we are provided with a half-baked story that is meant to explain the weirdness Jia Jia has experienced so far.
All in all, as I found this to be forgettable and bland, I can safely say that I did not get it. If you are curious about this novel I recommend you check out more positive reviews before making up your mind.

my rating: ★★☆☆☆

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