The Girl Who Played Go, by Shan Sa. Alfred E. Knopf; 2003.

This is a novel about the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930's. Its short chapters alternate between ones from the point of view of a young Chinese woman who regularly plays go in a park in town, and a Japanese soldier who is part of the occupying force. At the start of the book, the two threads don't meet, but they join as the book proceeds.

I wanted to like this book; there aren't that many novels about go, and this one has gotten a fair amount of notice outside of go-playing circles. Alas, I didn't. Part of it might have been my mood at the time - I wasn't up for a book quite as apocalyptic as this one (not that its apocalyptic nature was misplaced, I hasten to add) - but I do think that The Master of Go is head and shoulders above this as a literary novel. And First Kyu is head and shoulders above it as a novel for go fans. (As is The Master of Go, for that matter.) I'm glad this book exists, and I'm certainly glad mainstream publishers are publishing novels in which go plays a significant role, but I can't give it a top recommendation.

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Mar 21 16:31:29 PST 2004