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Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village Paperback – 23 Jan 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (23 Jan. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034911580X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115801
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

With a skill and art quite extraordinary for a first book ... the reader is drawn into the world she describes through the warmth of her friendships and the sympathy and generosity with which she treats all aspects of her subject. I put the book down finally with a sense of absolute satisfaction, having spent the last few hours beneath the spell of a writer of real integrity and power (Chris Stewart)

Her great strength is telling the villager s' stories, which she does with an engaging blend of charm, directness, humour and awe at the power of nature... It is a mark of Waugh's success that the romantic terra incognita she describes, helped by unsentime (TLS)

An elegy to a remarkable part of the world. (SUNDAY TIMES)

Waugh has captured the starkly beautiful landscapes in restrained descriptive passages, but the most fascinating aspect of her narrative is her portrayal of the villagers and the nomads she meets higher up the mountains... HEARING BIRDS FLY is an extraordi (OBSERVER)

Book Description

* Wonderfully accessible travel book on an inaccessible country - Outer Mongolia.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Hearing Birds Fly" is the extraordinary travelogue of Louisa Waugh, an English Language teacher who whilst living in Mongolia decides to spend a year at one of the furthest outreaches of the country living the lifestyle of the nomadic herders who inhabit the remote and isolated area.
The book is a rare and insightful look at the lives of the proud peoples of the Tsengel village and also an interesting look at how in some areas of the world the turn of the seasons is still the guiding hand to all activities that go on.
Louisa's style is warm and friendly and she never comes across as an arrogant foreigner scoffing at the primitive ways of the people. Likewise the people themselves come across to the reader as a noble and dignified folk, who do not generally begrudge their hard existence and yet can enjoy lighter moments as well. It was also refreshing to read that although Louisa's point of view was obviously from a female perspective and her closer friends were all women, she doesn't allow her writing to become a feminist crusade. The frankness of her writing is also a great credit to her.
The names of the villages are difficult to follow and more than once I had to refer to the handy guide of characters at the front of the book, and likewise, even though Louisa doesn't bombard the reader with Mongolian phrases there is a simply glossary of common phrases at the start. The one criticism I have is that there simply aren't enough photos of both the area and the people. I'm guessing this was done purposely for the privacy of the inhabitants, but it would have been nice for some more for the nosey reader!
The book was warm, sentimental, (but still factual) and extremely satisfying. I would actively seek out other books by Ms Waugh.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Family of mine once travelled to Mongolia, and having seen their pictures then, made me remember those impressions. Luisa Waughn's travelogue is a very beautiful book at most parts, but for some strange reason sad too. At he ending she leaves open, if she found, what she was looking for, or maybe even not. All together a very honest book, about the remote life close to nature, with its romanticism and its very hard and strenuous sides. At long parts one can get emerged into the lines, leaving you with the feeling to have read a deep and natural story of a beautiful landscape, people and a whole spectrum of human emotions, displayed without personal censorship. Glad to have read this book and would recommend it to everyone interested.
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I took a trip to Mongolia a few years ago, and thought I'd read this book to get a flavour of what to expect. That was extremely naive of me. As if my 2-week trip a few miles away from Ulaanbaatar could in any way compare to Louisa's. She lived for a year in the most remote, forbidding and bleak region of western Mongolia, thousands of miles from the convenience of urbanity, to experience authentic nomadic Mongol life.

Like most people who love to travel, Louisa wanted an insight into the real life and culture of the country, and to do that, she had to travel beyond the beaten track, to a place where you wouldn't have been able to communicate to a single soul unless you at least spoke Mongolian. Of course, most of us can't, and in any case wouldn't have the strength of mind to live in a village where you can freeze to death in the winter if you don't make your fire properly (there's no electricity or central heating), and where the people don't only not speak your language, but are culturally different, and consistently eye you with suspicion and distrust. Louisa's isolated in this alien world, where phoning home isn't even an option, and you can't help but admire her strength of will and determination to simply survive the day-to-day. Just waking up and making a cup of tea is a struggle.

It's in this way that Louisa takes the romanticism out of travel, and brings your head-in-the-clouds back down to earth with a welcome smack of reality, making you realise that if you truly want to experience what a different culture is, it will take at least a year, and you will spend most of that time lonely, wretched and surviving.
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Format: Paperback
Louisa's book is a very interesting account of life in a Mongolian village - a lifestyle that is being threatened by politics and modernity. However I found her writing particularly flat and pedestrian in style. To her credit though, she is brutally honest about being a foreigner in a society little touched by westerners. An example is when she admits to her possessiveness of the village when another foreigner is coming to visit for a day. Through her friendships with local women she and the reader are able to see the gulf of cultural divide, particularly for women.
Although I found the writing style a little dull, I would recommend the book on two counts. First is for the information about nomadic lifestyles. Secondly is for the opportunity to reflect on westerners living and attempting to become a part of remote cultures, particularly when the experience is to be commoditised into a book.
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