The People’s Republic of Desire by Annie Wang revolves around four girlfriends in Beijing, in a way that invites the obvious logline is to call this a Sex & The City / Joy Luck Club crossover, but LOOK AT ME AVOIDING THE OBVIOUS SUMMARY. Because we can have stories about sexually active single women without saying Sex & The City and we can have stories about Chinese women without saying The Joy Luck Club, can’t we?
There’s a trend in Chinese fiction of publishing one chapter at a time, making on online serial that’s shared on social media, and I’m pretty sure The People’s Republic of Desire started this way. Each chapter is a standalone story, but the characters overlap. This is a novel about ongoing female friendships, and in place of the typical rising action-climax-resolution plot, we have central questions of Is this happiness? Is this enough? and What now?
The characters consider their romantic relationships, whether that’s a disappointing husband, a prospective suitor or a semi-secret side boyfriend. They meet to discuss films or eat meals together, to analyze relationships or organize career networking, with the constant background theme of independence that new wealth has brought to young Beijingers.
My Chinese is best confined to menu reading so I really liked the Chinese phrases for social snark. Meinu, the type of lady author who sells books by looking hot on the cover, is a particularly memorable description, and often found on my HSK wordlist.