Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, By Yiyun Li

Word-perfect explorations of modern loneliness

Lesley McDowell
Sunday 25 September 2011 00:00 BST

Yiyun Li thanks William Trevor in her acknowledgements, an appropriate nod considering how much she recalls that master of the short story.

Li's work is almost faultless, as she balances past and present in her stories of modern China. "Kindness" is, at 80 pages, almost a novella, and what a beautiful examination of loneliness it is, as a middle-aged woman recalls her military training, her insane mother, the teacher who taught her English and DH Lawrence novels.

Yet how we are influenced, and influence others, in our loneliness, is also crucial, as seen in "The Proprietress" and "A Man Like Him". Humanity is key to Li's precise and elegant prose.

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