Life or death choices in a bid to survive the horrors of 1970s Communist China

This month in the penultimate edition of a year celebrating the globe’s greatest women writers World Book Club talks to acclaimed Chinese author Yiyun Li about her harrowing debut novel The Vagrants.

Winner of the Guardian First Book Award The Vagrants is based on real events which took place in China in 1979 during the era that ultimately led to the fateful Tiannanmen Square uprising.

In the provincial town of Muddy Waters a young woman, Gu Shan, is sentenced to death for her loss of faith in Communism. The citizens stage a protest after her execution and, over the following six weeks, the novel charts the hopes and fears of the leaders of the protest and the pain of Gu Shan’s parents and friends, as everyone in the town is caught up in the remorseless turn of events.

(Picture: Yiyun Li. Photo credit: Roger Turesson.)

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