Saturday, 9 June 2018

Book review : The Life Of A Banana - P P Wong

I'm sure it's one of those things that you only notice when you're going through it yourselves, just like when you see pregnant women all around you when you're trying for a baby, but there seem to be an unusually high number of books lately featuring children trying to come to terms with the death of their father. After Aftercare Instructions and All Day At The Movies, randomly plucked from my to-be-reviewed pile, this time it was The Life Of A Banana by P P Wong.

Behind this quirky title lies the heartbreakingly poignant and endearing story of Xing Li, a BBC or British Born Chinese person, constantly caught between two cultures and never feeling like she fits in anywhere. She is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside.

If her dual heritage and the sickening bullying at school that stems from it weren't enough to be dealing with for a 12-year-old, Xing Li, and her big brother Lai Ker, also have to come to terms with the sudden death of their mother. As their father had already died some time before, they are bundled off to live with their grandmother, a sharp-tongued, prickly woman who prefers strict rules and corporal punishment to displays of affection. Feathers are ruffled and resentment builds up between the rigid matriarch and her young charges, but as the book progresses and events finally come to a head, we learn that behind the stern exterior is a softer, more vulnerable and caring woman.

Xing Li is a wonderful character and one that you can't help but empathise with. She has a lot on her plate, both at home and at school, but despite the harrowing events portrayed, her frequent slips of the tongue add moments of humour to lighten the mood. Her best (and indeed only) friend Jay, a mixed race Jamaican-Chinese boy, offers another glimpse into the complicated world of dual cultures, again something that I could relate to.

Despite the tragedy and trauma in Xing Li's life, it is ultimately an uplifting, feel-good read that I found hard to put down. It provides entertainment but also food-for-thought, making you ponder not only the difficulty of fitting in and feeling like you belong, but also the dangers of putting up barriers and keeping everyone, even those who should be closest to you, at a distance.

star rating : 5/5

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 Jun. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1787198561
  • ISBN-13: 978-1787198562

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


  1. Looks like this book discusses a lot of sensitive issues, like coping with a loss of a parent, bullying, racism. It's hard to be different in our society. Casual racism (xenophobia) is unfortunately quite prevalent.

  2. I haven't heard of this book but it does sound like a very good read, I love a book that you can't put down xx

  3. Hadn't heard of this either and thought it might be light hearted based ont he name and cover. It sounds like quite a deep read.


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