I eventually finished my seven hours’ reading the novel for every page the plot moves forward, I needed a bit of respite to expel the sense of heaviness it brought to me. The heaviness came from Yan Geling’s profound description of humanity. An in-depth novel, from my personal preference, is written as a mirror, in which we can see their happiness and woe reflected and our soul gets trembled by its resonance. In short, we read ourselves, both the angel and the monster inside, and that’s why I chose You Touched Me as my topic.
Claimed by Yan Geling her most sincere writing, You Touched Me proceeds with Xiao Suizi’s recollection of the past that has been locked deeply inside her. In the 1970s, a group of gifted teenagers was chosen by a military to do literature and art propaganda work. The story is not limited in their teenage years; however, it covers four decades of span, in which those characters’ uncontrollable destiny and emotional entanglement are told. Loving and gaining nothing is probably one of the most sentimental themes, with unspoken words transferred into toleration and torment hidden in the eyes and trifling matters in life.
Two touches made by the “people pleaser” and role model Liu Feng form the main theme of the novel--one touch is about Lin Dingding, Liu Feng’s secret love. In the mid-70s, a period of severe material shortage and shackles on people’s mind, people abandoned no opportunity to show their personal loyalty to Chairman Mao and the Party. In those days, the love letters were regarded as decadent bourgeois ideology which was to be uncovered and harshly criticized, not mentioning actual touch. What a shame! The touch brought down the curtain to Liu’s career as role model when everybody spoke against him and forced a confession from him; the touch deprived his love forever and made him shamefully and angrily abandon the art troupe and throw himself onto Mekong River battlefield, leaving his right hand on it; the touch made him bear too much responsibilities for the unhappiness of his later years on his own shoulders; his hasty funeral was even more... Another touch is given to He Xiaoman, a girl long teased by all girls and refused to be lifted by boys in the art troupe. When Liu Feng regarded the lifting being out of kindness, it sowed the seeds of love in Xiaoman’s heart. The two touches change five people’s life tracks and also make the others sigh for them.
Every character in the novel is established to be round character. And from their transformation, we readers may sneak a peek at both the light and shadow in humanity. Those chosen teenagers are arrogant and proud in their youth, and the theme of their youth seeming to be the struggling and striving, which bears no frustration. Girls not only depend on the materials sent from their families to satisfy their vanity, to keep up with the Joneses, but also admire those sick fellows who are highly complimented for helping others and struggling through the acting with illness. The youth that bears no frustration also bears no plain. When everyone is but plain, they cannot wait to see the most admired role model falling. In terms of “people pleaser” Liu Feng, everyone drops their voice to a dismissive whisper, secretly waiting for him to be completely discredited. And no one believes there being unlimited good will ever since. What do they believe then? That he who has no selfish desire is not a human. Once the touching is uncovered, the voice bursts, and betrayal goes into violence.
Every character in the novel is the leading player on their own stage, rising and falling in the forty years of dancing. They are tripped by the times, and they rise with sadness---the sadness deeply hidden in them, the sadness not to be and not requiring understanding by anyone else, the sadness haunting them till their dancing to the end.