Saturday, January 10, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Meet Me in Venice: A Chinese Immigrant's Journey from the Far East to the Faraway West

This is a book review of an ARC I received from NetGalley: Meet Me in Venice: A Chinese Immigrant's Journey from the Far East to the Faraway West by Suzanne Ma. The publication date for this book is scheduled for February 16 of this year.

Suzanne Ma spent years in China and Europe to understand why Chinese people choose to immigrate to nations where they endure hardship, suspicion, manual labor and separation from their loved ones. Today all eyes are on China and its explosive economic growth. With the rise of the Chinese middle class, Chinese communities around the world are growing in size and prosperity, a development many westerners find unsettling and even threatening. Following Ye Pei’s undaunted path, this inspiring book is an engrossing read for those eager to understand contemporary China and the enormous impact of Chinese emigrants around the world. Meet Me in Venice provides a personal, intimate account of Chinese individuals in the very act of migration.

This is not a book that I would typically request from NetGalley. I am not usually interested in memoirs unless I am already familiar with the person. But since I just moved to Naples, Italy (and I have spent time in Venice), I was interested in learning something new about other foreigners coming to Italy to start a new life. This book was so heartfelt and moving. I completely fell in love with Ye Pei and her family. This book evoked empathy for all immigrants. I thought the author did a great job of discussing the reasons people migrate here, despite all the hardship. Even though, I am not Chinese and I will not be here permanently, I could still relate to her. When she was complaining about all the rules of the Italian language, I knew exactly how she felt. And when she complained about the rules regarding whether a word is masculine or feminine, I had to laugh because I could understand her confusion. I loved the descriptions of the Italian cities and countryside, the people, the coffee, their culture and I could just go on and on. I could tell Suzanne actually spent time in these places with these people because everything was so vivid. There were just a couple of issues I had with the book: one was that Suzanne Ma included too many peoples' stories and then she went back and forth with the interviews. So sometimes I would get confused about who she was talking about, especially if it hd been a while since she talked about them. Ye Pei was my favorite person in the story and I admit to getting a bit bored when she was talking with other migrant workers. Also, as beautiful as the cover is, I am not sure the title really fits the book. The author says quite a few times that Pei and her mother never worked in Venice; they worked in a city that was a two hour train ride away and barely got to visit it. The city they did work was nothing like Venice because it didn't have any of the canals or water that surrounds Venice. But when Pei is finally able to see Venice, the descriptions are magical and beautiful, just like Venice. This was a very informative book.

I give this book a 3/5.


  1. Memoirs aren't my thing either, but once in a while, I pick one up if I'm interested enough. The last memoir I read was by Kati Morton. It's really tough trying to find a good one, but I was told that The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe is a good one.

    Anyway, I think I'd be interested in a memoir, too if I'm at least familiar with an aspect of the person's life (in your case, being a transplant to Italy your self).

    Lovely review!

    1. Thans Joyous Reads. The End of Your Life Book Club has me intrigued, just by the title alone. Ha

  2. The cover are is so beautiful, almost canvas worthy don't you think?

    I'm very selective when it comes to memoirs too. Personally, I find it hard to review non-fiction or informational books.

    I would love to read your own personal experiences of Italy! ;)

    1. Claudia, yes the cover is beautiful! Of course Venice is a beautiful city. Maybe one day I can write my own memoir of living in Italy. :)