Wednesday 17 May 2023

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu BLOG TOUR #TheFuneralCryer @wenyan_lu @AllenandUnwinUK @RandomTTours #BookExtract


An Yu's Braised Pork meets Flaubert's Madame Bovary in this unforgettable, tragi-comic tale of one woman's mid-life re-awakening in contemporary rural China.

The Funeral Cryer long ago accepted the mundane realities of her life: avoided by fellow villagers because of the stigma attached to her job as a professional mourner and under-appreciated by The Husband, whose fecklessness has pushed the couple close to the brink of break-up. But just when things couldn't be bleaker, The Funeral Cryer takes a leap of faith - and in so doing things start to take a surprising turn for the better . . .

Dark, moving, and wry, The Funeral Cryer is both an illuminating depiction of a 'left behind' society - and proof that it's never too late to change your life.

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu was published on 4 May 2023 by Allen and Unwin. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Great-Great-Grandma was dead.
The whole village was touched by an eerie atmosphere, almost a strange relief. It seemed everyone had been secretly
waiting for this moment to come.
She was Great-Great-Grandma to everyone in the village.
I didn’t know how old she was at the time; we just knew she was alive. I felt a moment of surreptitious excitement and a shameful buzz in my chest since I would earn some money from her epic death.

A young woman in a white linen gown and a matching cloth hood approached me in the cramped kitchen. Walking on the street like this would be enough to reduce little children to tears.

She read Great-Great-Grandma’s obituary to me while I dabbed powder on my cheeks. Several village chefs and their helpers were preparing food amid much shouting and chopping. I could hardly move. I was surrounded by stacks of large cardboard boxes with ‘FRAGILE: PORCELAIN’ printed on them in thick black letters.

The young woman didn’t look happy, but she didn’t seem too sad either. Then again, I could be wrong. What you saw was not always what was there.

‘Will you really be able to remember her obituary?’ she asked me.
‘I’m just worried. If you make any mistakes, my uncle will be mad at me.’
‘You don’t need to worry. I promise everyone will cry. Trust me.’
‘Let me read it once again. Just to make sure,’ she said. I nodded and she began.

‘Dear Great-Great-Grandma lived an extraordinary life of 106 years. She selflessly devoted herself to the continuity and prosperity of her family. She suffered various hardships during her exceptionally long and enduring life and she did many remarkable things. She had twenty-five grandchildren, sixty-two great-grandchildren and sixteen great-great- grandchildren. More than thirty of her descendants live abroad. She will be remembered dearly by her family and her village. She lived the longest on record in our county, so we all feel tremendously proud of her. Her heartbreak was that seven of her grandchildren predeceased her. Let us cry for her and keep hope in our hearts for ourselves.’

I took a brief look at myself in the mirror. My face was pale, my eyebrows were painted long and my lips bright red: the perfect image for a traditional funeral cryer. There were several black and red make-up stains on my white gown, but nobody would notice them in their distress. The youngwoman had helped me to tie the big black cotton bow on the side of my gown. My bun was neat. I tugged some strands of loose hair along my temples and ears to cover my wrinkles. Finally, I pinned a white fabric flower carefully onto my hair.

The young woman handed me a small tea cup. ‘Your hair looks nice,’ she commented.
‘We’ve got a good barber in the village.’ I felt my bun.
‘Your belt is nice. Look at mine.’ Hers was a linen rope, a symbol of bereavement.
‘It doesn’t matter what it looks like. You have to wear it.’
‘You’re right. By the way, you need to eat something. Some rice biscuits?’
‘Thank you. I’ll keep some for the husband. He likes them.’
‘I’ll ask them to pack a box for you. Now, shall we rehearse a bit more? It’s not easy to get all those numbers right.’
‘Twenty-five grandchildren, but seven dead, sixty-two great- grandchildren and sixteen great-great-grandchildren.’
‘And don’t forget: she lived for 106 years.’

Originally from Shanghai, China, Wenyan Lu is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2020. 

Wenyan holds a Master of Studies in Creative Writing as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. 

Her unpublished historical novel The Martyr's Hymn was also longlisted for SI Leeds Literary Prize 2018 and Bridport First Novel Prize 2019. 

She lives in Cambridge with her family. 

Twitter: @wenyan_lu Instagram: @wenyanwrites

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