Loving Sabotage Review

Loving Sabotage
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Loving Sabotage ReviewThe narrator of Amelie Northomb's short novel is a young girl who has evidently been grossly ignored by her parents. She is the daughter of a diplomat stationed in China during the turbulent early 1970s -- her family, as well as the families of other foreign government workers, is isolated in what she calls a 'ghetto', cut off from the Chinese people. Her father's job is frustrating -- he is there to be the Belgian contact with the Chinese government, and to keep his country informed of what is going on in China, but the Chinese are not keen to let out much in the way of general information. Even the identities of Chinese cabinet ministers is treated as a secret.
In the midst of this atmosphere, young Amelie (and the author, in an afterword, maintains that the story is a true one, that even the names have not been changed) is pretty much left to fend for herself during the days. She rides her bicycle (she refers to it as her horse) through the Peking streets, offended that the Chinese guards at the compound gate do not see her as a threat to them. She has an active imagination -- one of the blessings of being seven years old -- and sees herself in vivid roles as a hero. The other children in the compound seem to be growing up the same way, and to amuse themselves, they engage in what they call a 'war' with the children of the East German diplomats.
With the arrival of a beautiful little girl named Elena, the child of an Italian diplomat and his South American wife, Amelie feels for the first time in her young life the magnetic pull of love for another person. She is entranced and obsessively infatuated with the little girl, who is cold and distant -- which only serves to make her more of an attraction. The lessons Amelie learns about love and friendship -- and the observations she shares with us of her world -- make this a touching, readable book. The feeling I was left with after reading it was one of sadness -- there's a lot of loneliness and heartbreak in this story, lessons that are tough to see a child learn by herself.
Nothomb's writing is a little choppy -- but that is most likely appropriate in this case, given the age of the narrator. In retrospect, I think it added some authenticity to that aspect of the story. I definitely want to read more of this author's work in order to gain a better perspective on her style and talents.Loving Sabotage Overview

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