The opening page of ‘The Stolen Bicycle’ sets the tone for an elegiacal novel of remembrance of introspection, a novels whose wheels are set in motion by the disappearance of a bicycle, the reverberations of which take the narrator on a journey through which explores the history of Taiwan through its association with the bicycle and the second world war.
“The sound of the sea brings a desperate loneliness that paces on the breeze through the village to the fields, pressing waves into the rice. Dawn’s faint light shins on acres of grain, new ears of rice that from afar appear eerily still and fine.”
The novel constantly oscillates between past and present as, the narrator meets a variety of different characters during his search for the lost bicycle, from Abbas the war photographer who is able to recreate the desperate retreat of Anglo-Indian soldiers under the unrelenting pressure of the Japanese troops to his ex-girlfriend who tool part in the swift rise and fall of the Taiwanese butterfly industry.
Beneath all of this lies a truly original and brilliant exploration of Taiwanese history and society, as Ming-Yi blends a variety of different narrative techniques to capture the growth of development post-war Taiwan, from the village in which the narration starts to the unrelenting pace of modernisation which takes over Taiwan, to the horrors of war depicted via slaughter of its zoo animals or the colouration of the sky as the sun rises on a nondescript morning.