20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, By Xiaolu Guo

Click to follow

"If you think 21 sounds a bit late for youth to start, just think about the average dumb Chinese peasant, two leaps straight from childhood to middle age with nothing in between." So begins Xiaolu Guo's heady debut, published several years before her much-fêted English language novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. Leaving behind the sweet-potato fields of her youth, Fenfang, Guo's spirited heroine, travels 1,800 miles to work as a film extra, only the "6787th person in Beijing" wanting the job.

Her big-city adventures are told as a series of slinky, slangy vignettes: one chapter ponders an ex's favourite brand of noodles, another records an exchange about Tennessee Williams. A breezy and brazen novel that guarantees pleasure with every pop.