Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a route less travelled., 6 April 2010
This review is from: Undress Me In The Temple Of Heaven (Paperback)
In 1986 two female graduates of Brown University in the US, empty of ideas about their future, decided to circumnavigate the globe together, starting in China. In the present day, China is such an easy tourist destination that it is difficult to imagine the 1980s when very few westerners went there and those that did were treated with extreme suspicion and monitoring by the Chinese government. The two young women, Susie and Claire, run into problems almost from the outset of their trip. They are routine problems that will be familiar to most modern travellers in China - dirty rooms with cockroaches, the unfathomable complexity of the language, over-helpful staff, necessity to buy a rail tickets days in advance of travel, toilets that defy belief and unrelenting bureaucratic problems. Their superior `we are rich American's from Brown University, and we are better than you' attitude however manages to evoke no sympathy at all from the reader. To start with therefore I disliked them, and because one of them is the author of the book, I didnt like the book either. But I realised after a while that I only felt that way because Susan Gillman is such a good writer that I was actually meant to feel this way. As the book unfolds its true nature becomes apparent. This is not a book about two Americans travelling across China having a series of hilarious travel related incidents, but rather an examination of how you cope with a travel partner who is slowly unravelling. And if you are a latent paranoid schizophrenic, then China in the 1980s is the ideal environment in which your fantasy world becomes real - because government people really are watching you, and your phone really is being tapped. If you are looking for a female equivalent of "Bill Bryson does China", this is not the book you are looking for. It does however explore a much less travelled route - the problem of coping with mental illness in a close friend, and it does so in an extremely readable and convincing way.
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3.6 out of 5 stars (5 customer reviews)
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