It’s over forty years since the summer of 1966, when the Red Guards stormed into the homes and lives of families across China, and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution gained an unstoppable momentum. For eight-year-old Guo Yue, one of a family of six children growing up in a traditional courtyard in the backstreets of Beijing, this was an unforgettable summer. The story of that summer is hauntingly retold by Yue and his wife, Clare Farrow, in his memoir, Little Leap Forward.

Like Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, Little Leap Forward gave me insights into living in China through a tumultuous period of history in a way that only personal experience can convey. To me, this book is a small masterpiece. To others as well: on its publication in 2008, The New York Times commented, ‘Little Leap Forward bears witness with the eye of a poet, the ear of a musician and the transformative imagination of a storyteller’.

In 1982, Yue left Beijing to study the silver flute at the Guildhall School of Music, London. He and Clare now live in Richmond, west London, with their two children. When we were working together on the  manuscript, some of the conversations I most vividly remember were about food. During the rush hour in Beijing, I learnt from Yue, no-one hides behind their newspaper as they head for work. Instead, everyone talks about food – about what they ate for breakfast, what they had for dinner last night, what it tasted like etc etc. And in the early evening, as families prepare their supper, the sound of thousands of knives chopping and slicing reverberates through the city. This is a nation that loves to eat – and Yue is a musician whose artistry extends to the kitchen – he is an accomplished cook as well as a flautist. It seems appropriate, then, not only to offer Little Leap Forward as our Book of the Month, but also to mark the Chinese New Year (10 – 25 February) by sharing Yue’s recipe for Long-Life Noodles with Pork, Ginger, Chilli and Coriander. Enjoy!




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