Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
This book really intrigued me before I started reading Number One Chinese Restaurant the debut by Lillian Li. (One, Imprint of Pushkin Press). I need not have worried. An incredible novel set in a Chinese restaurant and the character’s that both run and work there. We have all eaten in restaurants but how many take time just to stop and think about what really goes on behind the scenes.
This really is the ultimate character driven novel as there are many and you get to meet them. The trials and tribulations of the members of staff at the Beijing Duck House, Rockville, Maryland. They have been dishing up Chinese food now for many decades but when you have many people working closely together even if they are as close as a family, there are the usual tensions that are bubbling away just under the surface.
One aspect of this fabulous novel that I really enjoyed was each of the characters you get to meet in each of the chapters. So many interesting threads through the book that keeps you wanting to know more about the people who work there many as immigrants and their offspring. This really is a very large family drama being played out page by page.
There is Jimmy whose passion is to break away and set up his own restaurant but his relationship with Johnny is complex and many then there is Nan who is the Manager of the Duck House Restaurant and that of Ah-Jack who seems to have been there forever but he is formidable character.
Even in the best of family’s trouble can simmer and bubble to the surface and this does come through in Li’s writing and it is Nan who seems to have to deal with the many complex characters who work there. We also get to meet one of the original owners Feng Fei Wang who is full of zeal, she is wise but can stand up for herself if needs be.
It is a heart-warming story interjected with humour of characters that are workers, friends, family and more. This really is a compelling novel I found hard to leave alone for too long. Lillian Li’s prose is delicious and one I devoured like my favourite Chinese meal. Highly Recommended .
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION
Thank you to Tabitha Pelly at Pushkin Press for the review copy of Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li was published by One an imprint of Pushkin Press and was published on 7th Febraury 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.