Farewell My Concubine Critical Overview
by Lillian Lee

Start Your Free Trial

Download Farewell My Concubine Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

The novel Farewell My Concubine has lived in the shadow of its film adaptation, which earned a number of awards from prestigious institutions such the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the New York Film Critics Circle, to name a few. In fact the movie was considered such a revolutionary piece of Chinese filmmaking that its director, Kaige Chen, is more readily associated with Farewell My Concubine than Lee, and film reviews only give casual mention of the book, if they even mention it at all. A Publishers Weekly review offers some insight as to why the novel has received less attention and praise than the film. The reviewer speculates that the film version of the novel might be more satisfying than the novel as the film has an “irresistible setting” and “smart plot” that overpowers the “wooden reactions” of the characters in the novel. The reviewer concludes: “[Lee] has tailored an intricate brocade gown, but has neglected to put a body inside it.” The reader should bear in mind, however, that the critics are reviewing a translation of the original novel, so that some critical comments may in fact apply more to the translator’s writing style and interpretation rather than to the original novel in its native language.