Highly enjoyable...thoughtful and closely researched...His portrait of Spencer in particular is a work of comic genius (Dominic Sandbrook, The New Republic)
A brilliant feat of research...The result is a tour de force, erudite, funny, endlessly revealing and generously illustrated. (John Keay, Times Literary Supplement)
...this is a fascinating recreation of a moment in British political and cultural history. (History Today)
Acerbic and fair-minded. . . social comedy with a rueful edge (Wall Street Journal)
Entertaining. (The New Yorker)
Wright weaves this complex narrative with aplomb. (New Scientist)
Patrick Wright's history of their eccentric trips is learned and charming. (Boyd Tonkin, The Independent)
In his astonishing last half-dozen books, he has established himself not only as the champion ironist and caustic critic of that weird historical compound,'Englishness', but also a social historian of an inimitable kind. (Fred Inglis, The Independent)
As ever with Wright's work the sheer density of thought, allusion and fact is staggering - but what is more amazing is the deftness with which he spins from this a gossamer and entrancing narrative thread. (Will Self)
An impressive and unusual book... that succeeds by presenting a wonderful cast of characters set in a dimly remembered period... a depth and resonance that make it more than the sum of its considerable parts. (Jonathan Fenby, Literary Review)
In the second half of 1954, scores of European delegations set off for Beijing, in response to Prime Minister Chou En-lai's invitation to 'come and see' the New China and celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Communist victory. In this delightfully eclectic book, part comedy, part travelogue, and part cultural history, Patrick Wright uncovers the story of the four British delegations that made this journey. These delegations included an amazing range of people from the political, academic,
artistic, and cultural worlds of the day: Clement Attlee and his former Health Minister, Nye Bevan; dapper and self-important philosopher A. J. Ayer; the brilliant young artist-reporter Paul Hogarth; poet and novelist Rex Warner (a former Marxist who had just married a Rothschild); and the
infuriatingly self-obsessed Stanley Spencer who famously lectured Chou En-lai on the merits of his hometown of Cookham, but who emerges as the unlikely hero of the story.
Using a host of previously unpublished letters and diaries, Patrick Wright reconstructs their journey via the USSR to the New China, capturing the impressions - both mistaken and genuinely insightful - of the delegates as they ventured behind both the iron and the bamboo curtains. Full of comic detail of the delegates and their interactions, it is also a study of China as it has loomed in the British mind: the primitive orient of early western philosophy, a land of backwardness that was used to
contrast with the progressive dynamism of Victorian Britain, as well as the more recent allure of revolutionary transformation as it appeared in the minds of twentieth century Britons.