Monday, 8 December 2014

Reckless Marriage/ Don't Make Love A Thing (昏嫁/别拿爱情说事儿) by Bu Jing Yu (不经语) - Review & Scene Translation (HE) (3.5 stars)

    The last review I wrote was in August 2014. I can't tell if this reflects how busy I have been with life or the dearth in good c-novels I have read. Actually, I have read a few good novels from my last review (which was a Fei Wo Si Cun novel), but sometimes it's not necessarily a good novel that drives you to write about it, but an almost ineffable quality that turns a book into an unforgettable feeling that you can't quite put a finger on but know that ah, this book is certainly interesting. 

  This book will be especially interesting to people who have already read many love stories before. It is for those that wonder what will Cinderella look like in modern society? And, if love and its ideals will be able to survive in the cynical pragmatic realism of our times?

  The original title of the story was Reckless Marriage, but changed to Don't Make Love A Thing (the connotation is Don't Make a Love a Big Deal) when the story was published. The story's premise is simple - can a gold-digger find love in a contract marriage?

  The book synopsis I translated on SSB:

  Tu Ran sells medicine to doctors for a living. Her nickname is "Little Pharmaceutical Representative". Every day, she mixes with the doctors and pharmacists. Lu Cheng Yu is a young professor at the hospital, a rising surgeon in the field of heart surgery, his future is lit in gold. After a one night stand, they both parts ways - seemingly without a trace of emotion.

  Two months later, Tu Ran realises that she is pregnant. When she is at the hospital to abort the baby, she accidentally sees Lu Cheng Yu's very rich father drive a luxurious car to meet his son. After realising that Lu Cheng Yu has a wealthy father, Tu Ran suddenly decides not to abort the baby. On the second day, Tu Ran brings the ultrasound scan of the baby to find Lu Cheng Yu, with the baby as a bargaining chip, she proposes marriage. After a night of consideration, Lu Cheng Yu agrees......

  Can this secret in Tu Ran's heart be hidden? What will happen after Lu Cheng Yu finds out? How will two seemingly unrelated people pass their lives together? Can two people who had entered the hall of marriage for a ridiculous reason end up receiving happiness?

(This review will be very spoiler-filled!)

   Can a gold-digger find love in a contract marriage?  

   Except as the story unfolds, you realise that (i) the female lead is not actually a gold-digger and (ii) the male and female lead had met before in their youth, the male lead was a student tutor of the female lead (he is only 3 years older) and was always the crush she hid in her heart, the love letter she never dared to send out.

   Tu Ran's family is poor, her father died of cancer during her university years. She has to help her brother cover his university fees, take care of her aged mother and grandmother. All she knows is that love is not enough.

  But, appearances can be deceiving. Especially, Tu Ran's appearance - she is described as very beautiful, but the kind of seductive beauty that man want to bed and not to marry. At first, you think she is as mature as she looks, and the fun in the story is to realise how much Tu Ran is not as mature and sophisticated as she tries to convince herself that she is - that love is nothing to her, and it was always about the money. 

  The story never actually states if the male lead liked the female lead when they first met as students (though there is a hint that he found her attractive), but it was clear that the female lead's first crush was always, and in many ways still, him. 

  In fact, the female lead realises much later to her horror that she cannot get over the fact that the male lead's first love is still very much in his life (they aren't close, but they are doctors in the same hospital). She is filled with an immense sense of guilt and self-revulsion when she thought that because of the obligation she had put on the male lead, he had to give up his second chance with his first love. Whether this is true or not, the female lead falls into a cycle of insecurity and tries to let the male lead go by asking for a divorce time and time again - which is ignored by the male lead.

  Does such a story sound frustrating? The interesting thing is that the plot structure is frustrating, but yet also deeply rewarding. You start to see very clearly (as the male lead must see) that the female lead is clearly not a gold digger - yes, she is realistic and understands the value of money, but she has merely used the excuse of money to hold onto the male lead, who she clearly has very deep affections. Her life gets better - but not drastically so - she still works, and in facts, puts in lots of efforts (which is wonderfully underplayed) in cooking and cleaning for the male lead. If she had married the male lead for money, then well she could be taken as a rather unsuccessful gold-digger. 

  It is not easy being married to a surgeon - he is always busy, and his work is always a matter of life and death. Tu Ran is understanding in a very understated manner - so understanding that it could be read as coldness in another's eyes. The kindness from Lu Cheng Yu to Tu Ran is also so gentle and layered that Tu Ran interprets it as always being for some other reason than because Lu Cheng Yu might just might like her. In fact, both of them talk bluntly about everything except their feelings. Because, in this marriage, it was never about feelings.

  Isn't it a little intriguing? A love story that tells you - don't make love a thing. Don't make love important. Because, this society has taught Tu Ran that love is not enough. But, love is clearly what is necessary when Tu Ran time and time again asks to leave the marriage - because, why else would she ask to leave this marriage that is economically beneficial to her except because love is important?

  Bu Jing Yu writes several lovely passages on the relationship between Tu Ran and Lu Cheng Yu. In fact, I would have loved if the story was more focused on the couple - I gave it 3.5 stars in the end, because she also wrote quite a bit on the other characters in Tu Ran and Lu Cheng Yu's life, but I found those characters really boring - so I skipped quite a bit! I think Bu Jing Yu's skill is in imbuing great feelings and meaning in simple acts - the story sags when she becomes too explicit in trying to draw parallels about love in the relationship of the other characters (eg, affairs, divorce, money, etc). It's a bit like watching a weekend korean drama and you are like - I am only interested in two characters!

 The male lead is not a simpleton. He felt a deep attraction to Tu Ran and went into the marriage with the intention of making it work, though he probably didn't know how much work a marriage needed, and it was as much a learning process for him as it was for Tu Ran.

  To me, it was very clear while reading that Lu Cheng Yu would always choose Tu Ran and not his first love. 

  There was one part where Lu Cheng Yu reflects back on why he broke up with his first love - each time she had asked to break up, he had always stopped her, but at the last time, when she asked to break up, he let her (to her surprise and perhaps eternal regret). She was a beautiful, rich girl from a prestigious family of doctors. There was family opposition from her side because of his own messy family dynamics (his father cheated on his mother and his father's mistress angered his mother to death), and his first love was a pure girl, with high emotional expectations and a great need for security. He was too young then, unable to live up to those expectations and felt tired by the pressure of her incessant questioning of security and do you love me? (A question that Tu Ran never dares to ask). 

  So, one of my favourite parts was when Lu Cheng Yu (secretly heart pained at Tu Ran having to work in a difficult job, and Tu Ran's work forcing them to live in two different houses because of the work locations) asked Tu Ran to quit her job and become a housewife. Tu Ran refused:

   Tu Ran said, "I suddenly realise that your need for control is very strong. It's strange that I never realised it before, but I don't like it. I can tell you now - I will not quit, at least I will not quit now. If I don't work, I will have too much free time. or, I would earn less and that would make me feel very insecure. I don't know if you will be able to understand such a feeling, but in all, it's a strange feeling. Thank you for your consideration, but I cannot accept it. My life is one of labour, there's no helping it."

  Lu Cheng Yu looked at her, as if he was doubtful for a moment, and then asked, "Are you trying to say that you cannot get a feeling of security from me?"

  Tu Ran was slightly surprised. She shook her head, "This is not something that a person can give. If something can be taken back at any moment, how is that called security?"

  As Lu Cheng Yu heard her finish speaking, he could not help smiling slightly. He slowly finished his soup and nodded his head. It was not clear if he felt the soup tasted good or if he had agreed that what she had said held meaning. 

  I loved the story when it is filled with such moments of gradual understanding between Tu Ran and Lu Cheng Yu. This is a story written with clear affection by the author, even if the events do not always play out in the way we might want it to be. 

  In some ways, this is already a fairytale. Tu Ran meets her first crush, Lu Cheng Yu. He is still ever so handsome, and so gentlemanly. To be able to marry him is more than Tu Ran could hope for - is asking for love as well too much? So she tells herself and tells her friend, she only married Lu Cheng Yu for his money, don't make love a thing. 

  I've translated the ending for those that may never get a chance to read this. To give some context, Tu Ran has asked for a divorce (this time more seriously than the times before) because she doesn't think there is any meaning for their marriage to go on. Lu Cheng Yu refuses. Tu Ran says she needs some time to think and will call him back when she is ready. She doesn't call him for days - and when she finally calls him, it's because their son is very sick. So, he quickly comes over and watches over the son till he gets better. This is the morning after the son is better.

  Lu Cheng Yu walks over and flicks her hair lightly, "I am leaving.'

  The light in the house was switched on. Suddenly, she felt that he had became a stranger. He did not feel as close as when they nakedly faced each other last night. She unconsciously furrowed her brows as she looked at him, he copied her expression. After a while, he said, "Rise up, the baby is awake." After saying that, he put on a bracelet on her wrist.

  Tu Ran looked at it, it was the row of seashells that she had always placed under her pillow*. He must have realised it just now.

  Her heart did not feel happy, as if she was still holding a grudge, and she forcefully threw the bracelet on the floor.

  Lu Cheng Yu seemed slightly surprised but he did not say anything. He turned around to pick it up and walked off.

  Tu Ran did not want to say anything. She laid in bed for a while then holding in the pain and soreness in her body, she got up.

  Her son was lying down in his cot and playing a small bell. She went to the kitchen and realised that the food was already prepared. Again, she could not muster up energy to speak. She turned around and saw that he was sitting on the sofa and looking at her. She finally asked, "You still have not left?"

  He stood up straight and took his jacket, "I am leaving." She had bought the jacket for him. These days, the weather had cooled and the winds were strong, he had started to wear it again.

  Lu Cheng Yu walked to the door then paused, "I forgot my wallet. It is on the sofa."

  Tu Ran passed the wallet to him.

    He left, closing the door behind him.

   Tu Ran opened her eyes wide as she stared at the door. Her brain was in a mess, her heart was empty.

  After a while, someone rung the door bell. She took two steps to walk three steps and ran to open the door. As if feeling that she had walked too fast, she paused for a moment, waited a few seconds and then opened the door.

  "Handphone," Lu Cheng Yu stood at the door and said, "I think it's at the tea cups."

   Tu Ran passed the handphone to him.

  Lu Cheng Yu received it, stood still, without even waiting for him to walk away, Tu Ran closed the door.

    She suddenly felt hot and frustrated, her stomach was clearly hungry but she did not want to eat. She saw her son wave his little arms at her, but she did not want to hug him. She wanted to watch the television but was too lazy to switch it on. In all, she did not know what she should do.

  The door bell ran again, she did not wait, she quickly ran to open the door, "What did you forget again?"

  Lu Cheng Yu held up something in his hand, "The button on the jacket fell." After speaking, he stepped in, and pushed the jacket to her, "Quickly sew it back."

  Tu Ran gave him a glance and then went to find needle and thread. Both of them sat on the sofa at different ends. Lu Cheng Yu seemed aimless as he watched over her sew. After she finished the button, he added, " What kind of clothes did you buy? Most of the buttons are loose."

  Tu Ran did not answer and one by one, she tightened each button. After she finished, she shook the jacket. Lu Cheng Yu walked over and she helped him put it on. Both of them were very close, but further than when they were on the bed. Tu Ran briefly felt that his hands was lightly on her waist for a moment.

  After Lu Cheng Yu wore his jacket properly, he turned around and left.

  For a long while, the door bell did not ring.

  Tu Ran sat on the sofa and stared at her son in his cot. Her son was lying down and reached out his hand to the tea cups. It was not clear what he was thinking. Tu Ran looked over and saw the string of shells again. She picked it up to place in her son's hand. He did not make a sound as he concentrated on playing the shells.

  In Tu Ran's hand was a piece of folded paper, which had been under the bracelet. She did not notice it at first, but she now realised that there were many words on the paper. The words were neatly arranged. It was clear the person writing the words had purposely slowed his pace so that it could be read properly.**

  On the paper, it was written:

  "Tu Ran, in reply to those words you said that day, I want to give an explanation.

  I brought you to Lian Li Hu, because I wanted to spend more time with you. Of course, this included biological needs, because I am a healthy man, I hope you won't mind. After that I teased you and said I came for a conference, fine, I am someone who is quite bad, looking at your disappointed expression or when you get angry, I will feel happy. For example, when I told you  that your dumplings were not nice to eat, that you did not clean tidy enough, or laughed at you for your various plants.

  You say I treated your grandmother well because I am filial. Actually, I am not that good, I just wanted to give you a good impression of me. Of course, grandmother is someone we should respect.

  I don't like you to sell medicine, because I don't want to see you being bullied by others again, don't want to see you smoke and drink and become tired, don't want you to do anything that would hurt your health.

  I wake up in the middle of night to make food for you, because you are hungry.

  I bought a electronic notebook for you, because it was your birthday, I wanted to make you happy.

  Everytime you ignore me, I will come and make up with you. Not for anything else, just for you, because I don't want us to divorce.

  I said those things in front of others, because I don't want others to misunderstand you. Don't want you to be upset, because when you are upset, it upsets me more.


  Many times, I also don't know what I should do. For example, marriage. Marrying you was the most impulsive thing I have ever done in my life, but, I think that I am very lucky."

  The last line: "Wife, if you still believe me, can you open the door?"

   Tu Ran folded the paper, squeezed it in her palm, she slowly walked to the door. She mustered up all her courage and opened the door.

  Lu Cheng Yu stood outside.

  He had raised one hand as if he was about to ring the doorbell. In the moment when the door opened, he saw her, his face had a flash of shyness, he smiled lightly, it was incredibly handsome.

  Tu Ran asked him, "What are you doing?"

  Lu Cheng Yu sighed, "I was thinking of a reason that isn't a reason to come in."

  "Have you thought of one?"

   "Not yet."

  "You are going to be late for work."

  "I am already late."

  "If I did not open the door, will you continue to wait outside?"

  Lu Cheng Yu quickly said, "A lifetime is so long, what is waiting for you for one night?"

  Tu Ran laughed, "Don't fake it, this is not your style."

  Lu Cheng Yu also laughed, "What is my style?"

  Tu Ran imitated his usual tone, "Tu Ran, don't torture anymore, you are only blindly torturing, don't create something out of nothing, always thinking ......"

  Lu Cheng Yu smiled and nodded his head, "Indeed, please don't torture me anymore, pardon me."

  Tu Ran closed her mouth and smiled, "I won't torture you anymore. Do you want to come in or go to work?"

  He took a big step in and wrapped her in his arms, he said in a low voice at her ear, "I will hug you and then go, this will give me energy at work."

  He thought for a moment and added, "Please don't make me write such things again. In this life, once is enough."

  In this life, once is enough.

   Later, when Tu Ran felt inspired, she wrote something at the back of the paper. It went roughly like this:

   The marriage that I want has no testing, no guessing, no suspicion, I will follow in your footsteps, walk the roads you walk, eat the bitterness you eat, see the scenery you see, we will weather the bad things together, always together through the wind and rain.


* Tu Ran picked up these seashells when Lu Cheng Yu and her were at Lian Li Hu. She said she wanted to make them into a bracelet. 
** Tu Ran once complained that it was impossible to read Lu Cheng Yu's handwriting. 


  1. Was this book translated? Awww i love the ending evethough i dunno the whole story haha


    1. Haha glad you loved it! I really like the ending too ♡

      From what I know, I think I'm the first person to write about it in english! But, many of the books I reviewed do get pick up for translations by others; so you never know ;)

  2. What a sweet ending! And the letter, aww! "Of course, this included biological needs, because I am a healthy man, I hope you won't mind." LOL

    This seems like a nice story, sigh now i want to read it. I've tried reading modern c-novels but haven't found one I like, maybe this one could be it. It did kind of feel like reading it from your summary, thanks. If you ever decide to translate excerpts count me in, I'd definitely read them :D


    1. Heehee I laughed at that part too! I think Lu Cheng Yu is just unable to say sweet things in real life but the letter was touching ♡

      I hardly review modern novels because not many have left an impression on me. This one is not bad! It isn't difficult to translate but there are quite a few boring parts hee

  3. thanks for the summary. sweet and concise. felt the agony and silent love between them. a good read this morning that cheated a few drops of my precious tears. :))

    1. Hello playful, silent love is a very good description indeed! ♡♡♡

  4. I really hope that someone will translate it. At times like this i really hate my limited chinese.

    1. Someone might pick it up for translation if the feedback is good! :) Quite a few of the novels I reviewed got pick up for translation projects later - even some that I never thought anyone will attempt translating! It's not too difficult too and might be readable with google translate ;) you can try it out!

    2. If you can read zhuyin/pinyin, you can download fonts that automatically add zhuyin/pinyin to the text.

      I just started reading Chinese novels after running across this website and shushengbar - if you speak Chinese at home and can read some non-fiction, some of the novels being reviewed are actually comprehensible. :)

    3. Wow! That's a really interesting way to read c-novels! Cool idea ;)