Friday, October 14, 2011

Country Driving: A journey through China from farm to factory, by Peter Hessler

First off, a confession and a complaint.

The confession:  I couldn't make it through the book.   I was very interested in the first section, which was about Mr. Hessler's initial drives across China.   The second section, about his home away from the city (Beijing) in a peasant area, was largely interesting to me.   But by the third and final section, about a factory village, I'd lost all my interest.   Now in fairness I did skim through the remainder, reading a few pages here and there.   But that was sufficient.

Based on the uniformly positive reviews of this book I can only assume the failure here is my own inability to focus.

So now the complaint.   If you're reading a book about a remote place, and specifically someone's road trips across that remote place, don't you think you're entitled to a map?   But the first map (it is generous to call it that) didn't appear until after the 122nd page.   And it didn't show any of the routes of the first 122 pages at all.  Or maybe it did.  Hard to tell.

I really should say more about this book, at least facts about it.   The prior sentences presumably convey my assessment.    So here we go:   Mr. Hessler is an American journalist who'd been living in China for some time, and speaks the language.   Living in Beijing, he decided to get a driver's license (no small task in China), rent a car and travel along a Great Wall -oriented route, trusting the inadequate drivers maps as a general guide.   This book documents these travels (in the first section), as well as his experiences in part-time living with a small village population a couple of hours outside of Beijing (the second section), and hit visits to a factory region in the south, near Wenzhou (in the third, and as previously confessed, largely unread third section).

There are, it turns out, multiple versions of this bookavailable.

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