Dai, Sijie "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" (Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse Chinoise) - 2002
A great story about the Chinese Cultural Revolution in its later years. Two boys from an educated family are sent to a village for re-education. Through the stories of Balzac (whose books they find and steal), they get to know and fall in love with a village girl who is known as the Little Seamstress.
For someone growing up in Western Europe, it is hard to imagine what it means to be in the boys' situation. They have done nothing wrong, they have not harmed anyone, still, they get punished for being them and for having an education, their parents get punished for educating their children.
Apparently, this is a semi-autobiographical novel, so the author knows what he is writing about. And that is very obvious in his writing.
I think it is interesting that the author wrote his story in French and it was translated into his native language only after the book had been made into a movie and translated into 25 other languages.
From the back cover:
"In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined."