Customer Reviews


12 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (5)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very important book
After being deeply affected by the horror encountered reading Wild Swans I really wanted to find out more about post-Mao China. What better place to look than this! Although it was written in the eighties, the book does portray flashes of hope for one of the most traumatised nations of modern history. Western influences were already creeping in then - TV, fashion,...
Published on 20 Oct 2004 by Emily Bella

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars china
This whinging author has an interesting tale to tell of his many thousand mile journey through China by foof,bike,car,boat,train and plane when he meets interesting people(but his language skills are dubious) and visits major cities and minute villages on the way.
However his story becomea repetative and meaningless because of his never ending complaints-too...
Published 14 months ago by G. I. Forbes


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very important book, 20 Oct 2004
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
After being deeply affected by the horror encountered reading Wild Swans I really wanted to find out more about post-Mao China. What better place to look than this! Although it was written in the eighties, the book does portray flashes of hope for one of the most traumatised nations of modern history. Western influences were already creeping in then - TV, fashion, music... and people were starting to think that there is more to life than communism. (although this was not to be easily discovered!). Yet with quality of life being the poorest of the poor china still has a long way to go!
Mr Thubron has an incredibly perceptive nature. He has an amazing talent to spot a multitude of unspoken words in the tiniest change of expression on someones face, and to describe a multitude of political and emotional concepts in a single sentence. His style of writing may be cumbersome to some, but its well worth getting used to the elaborate words in order to gain one of the most profound western insights into the country imaginable.
Mr Thubron leaves no stone unturned, he remarks on the tiniest details around him and the most trivial of thoughts that would be irrelevant to most, and weaves these into the overall tapestry of his chapter. Nothing is beneath him, he really immerses himself into Chinese culture and engages with Chinese living and thinking. This is what makes him such a unique travel writer. He has so many perspectives. He writes with humour, compassion, detachment, artistic descriptiveness, political knowledge and worldly intelligence, yet he also brings a reassuring touch, human feeling that readers can connect with.
This is the nearest you can get to a virtual trip into China. His books about Russia and Siberia are just as profound, I'm looking forward to reading the rest... !
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars China, 1980 style, 11 Feb 2009
By 
J. Thoas (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
Thubron's typical eclectic mix of people, lifestyles, places, scenery, history, myth and politics, brings post-revolutionary China to vivid life as he travels north to south, east to west. While undoubtedly China has moved on since his journey, this book reveals as much about the minds and attitudes of its 1980s population as it does about the cities and countryside, industry and wildernesses.
Read this, if you can, before The Lost Heart of Asia and Shadow of the Silk Road. I didn't, and wish I had, although it didn't prevent me from falling under Thubron's narrative spell.
One small downside: I do wish there had been more and better maps. I had to keep referring to my own atlas (or looking on the web) to find out exactly where he was ...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent travel book about 1980s China, 13 Mar 2010
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
Colin Thubron is one of the most prominent living travel authors and his journeys through Asia are justly praised by fans of the genre. He has a peculiar approach to travel writing, by generally going to one country only and then trying to visit as much of it as possible while talking to the maximum amount of people, unlike for example Paul Theroux, who generally writes about travel across many societies. In this book, "Behind the Wall", Thubron takes us on a tour of China, and then I really mean all of China (except Tibet and Manchuria), as it was when he visited it in 1987.

The result is an interesting overview of Chinese society as it was just opening up to foreigners after the long periods of war and revolution. Thubron was by no means the first tourist to do a tour of China since 1949, but he did travel when European tourists were very rare and limited to expensive package deals and the corresponding upper class environment, be it by Chinese standards. He studiously avoids following in their footsteps, and instead tries to take the cheaper hostels, the lower class train carriages and so forth in order to get an impression of real Chinese society as the Chinese experienced it. The degree to which one can do this as a total outsider is still always limited of course, and as any anthropologist knows the very act of being an observant as a stranger can and will change people's behavior. Nonetheless, the rarity of a white foreigner in the places Thubron goes greatly aids him in conversing with a number of random Chinese he meets, and this leads to some interesting conversations and good insight into the diversity of the Chinese peoples as such, 'even' under Communism.

Thubron has been particularly praised for his good descriptive writing with regard to places and landscapes, and this is fully borne out in the book. He manages to be almost poetic about many of the remarkable sites he visits without either sounding over the top or like a travel brochure, which is quite a feat. His somewhat cynical detachment from the actual society probably helps in that regard. Nonetheless, this can get quite irritating too. Even though the year is 1987, he insists on asking every single person about the Cultural Revolution, obviously fishing for horror stories - and when a poor farmer tells him the Cultural Revolution for him meant an improvement, he simply refuses to believe it. Generally Thubron seems remarkably hostile to the society he is travelling in, not just politically, but also with regard to culture and habits. He is duly impressed by China's history and architecture, but seems to find most Chinese people he meets easily boring and backwards, and even helpful officials lazy and corrupt. There is probably some truth in this, in both the culture shock and the political cynicism, but it does make Thubron seem like a closed-minded conservative diplomat sent to some outpost of faded glory and poor manners.

Overall though, the book contains sufficient memorable descriptions of both famous and less familiar places and sites in China to make it easily worth the read. One could object that sometimes Thubron is so selective in what provides his inspiration that many a large city or 500 km trip passes by without much description, but he can be forgiven for this by the rule that a writer should be allowed to use only that raw material he can work with. And when he does it, he does it well. Much has changed in China since "Behind the Wall", and foreign travel will now not be so remarkable and lead to such friendly bemused responses among the Chinese as in those days, but perhaps for just that reason this book is a good portrait of a China that is past.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of a people rather than a country, 28 Mar 2009
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
This is a fantastic insight into the people of China as discovered by Thurbon during various visits in the 1980s. Those who have been to China may recognise parts of the country he describes but you don't need to be a seasoned traveller to enjoy the tales of the people he meets along the way. Rather than long discriptions of places or monuments this is a look a the people affected by so many massive cultural changes in this fascinating country. It may be dated in parts but if accepted as of of its time it is a great read. An easy writing style - giving the people he meets the voice to express their hopes, dreams and fears - makes this a joy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside of the most mysterious world, 8 Nov 2011
By 
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
Colin Thubron is a masterpiece travel writer who has produced a number of fascinating accounts of the mysterious world, which are not widely known. "Inside of the Great Wall" is one of them.

He travelled through and roamed through the rural villages, hamlets, and military zones, and farming communities near the borders of Vietnam, Mongolia, India and Tibet in the 1980s, as well as strolling through big cities, all of which had just open to the West. He had met various people including former political prisoners and families of the victims of the Cultural Revolution, and provides descriptive accounts based on ancient to modern history, politics, agriculture, forestry, economics, education, life of political prisoners, which sounds worse than Soviet's Gulag, geography, and a huge variety of beasts which Chinese have eaten, e.g. dog's brain, cat, snake, to name just a few. He even tells about peculiar and unimaginative food stuff with stinky smells and hideous appearance which he saw in the supermarkets in the 1980s. He includes a very interesting but understandable fact that many of the rural Chinese people do not know the location of Great Britain or elsewhere other than their world.

In reference of the modern history, Chinese government have proposed and implemented one-child polity in the urban areas and two children policy in the rural areas to curb the population. Despite the effort, China's population is still growing and the punishment of people losing the properties and jobs undertaken and its harshness has been criticised by the western media.

If you wish to study in-depth of China and people, this is the book you should read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel guide with a difference, 31 Oct 2009
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
I took this book with me on our family trip to China. We were also armed with the more conventional guide books. These were, naturally, invaluable for the purposes of getting around and sights to see, but Colin Thubron's book brought to life a people and culture unknown to us. A most enjoyable read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars China, 18 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Kindle Edition)
This book was well-written like all C. Thubron's books. I could not read the map which was annoying as I could not locate the places. Travel details were limited but replaced with a concentration on the Chinese people and places. This was fascinating particularly in view of the enormous changes in China, hard to believe it is the same country, and most of our goods now come from there. The activities of Mao etc. were chilling to read about.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Thubron raises the bar of travel writing to an astonishing level, 30 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
Colin Thubron writes of places and people using his poet's eye in clear, concise and beautifully constructed English; no travel writer that I know of can hold a candle to him. He is an unashamedly educated writer writing for educated people. There is not a trace of artificiality or artifice in his writing; what he sees and experiences is what you get untinged by any prejudice or bias.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 15 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Kindle Edition)
I loved seeing China behind this man's eyes. Acute witty observation from the author coupled with a learning experience for me - great combination. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars rather grim post revolution China of the 1980's, 18 Mar 2013
By 
Mr. Robert Marsland (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Behind The Wall (Paperback)
Colin Thubron in Behind the Wall presents a rather grim post revolution 1980's China. He visits different places starting off in Beijing but what gives the book its main tone is the stories of the people he meets along the way, who are mostly unhappy and disgruntled at the way things in their country are. The book therefore comes across very grey and depressing. The writing as always by Thubron is excellent but only being on chapter three I am nonetheless tempted top leave the book there, it being so bleak. I found Thubron's In Siberia and Amongst the Russians much more engaging, but maybe that's just me. One can only take comfort with the thought that things in China things are much improved now.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Behind The Wall
Behind The Wall by Colin Thubron (Paperback - 1 April 2004)
6.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews