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Literature / The Girl Who Played Go

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The Girl Who Played Go (La Joueuse de Go) is the third novel by Shan Sa, a Chinese author who lives in France, and writes in French.

Manchuria, 1930s. A sixteen-year-old girl's favorite pastime is to play go on a public square. She wins against all adversaries, but one day a young man shows up who turns out to be a match for her. As they make a habit of playing against one another, their rivalry turns into mutual admiration and eventually attraction.

But the man is actually an officer in the occupying Japanese army, and as the Second Sino-Japanese War breaks out, the two players find themselves on enemy sides.


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Contains examples of:

  • Break the Cutie
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Japanese don't hesitate to torture their prisoners for information, in such brutal ways that even a hardened army officer is shaken by his visit to the prison.
  • Downer Ending
  • La Résistance: Some of the girl's friends join the fight against Japanese occupation.
  • Love Triangle: The protagonist and Min and together, but Jing wants her. She doesn't want to take it to that level because she feels it would spoil the sacredness of their platonic relationship.
  • No Name Given: Neither character is referred to by name.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The title.
  • Point of View: The story is told from the alternating perspectives of each character.
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  • Raging Stiffie: During the male protagonist's military training, over his love interest.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Imperial Japanese army.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: The female lead gets pregnant with a resistance leader's child and considers raising it on her own after he's executed by the Imperial Japanese Army. Subverted when she goes for an abortion.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: The main character does this to run away from Jing.
  • UST: Eventually resolved.


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