‘So I was the 6787th person in Beijing wanting to act in the film and TV industry. There were 6786 young and beautiful, or ugly and old people before me trying to get a role. I felt the competition, but compared with 1.6 billion people in China, 6786 was only the population of my village. I felt an urge to conquer this new village.’ Life as a film extra in Beijing might be dispiriting, but Fenfang – the spirited heroine of Xiaolu Guo’s new novel – won’t be defeated. She has travelled 1800 miles to seek her fortune in the city, and has no desire to return to the never-ending sweet potato fields back home. Fenfang is determined to live a modern life: she works as a cleaner in the Young Pioneer’s movie theatre, falls in love with unsuitable men, keeps her kitchen cupboard stocked with UFO instant noodles. As Fenfang might say, Heavenly Bastard in the Sky, isn’t it about time I got my lucky break?