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When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter's Tale
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When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter's Tale

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  75 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
At 23, Matt Davis moved to a remote Mongolian town to teach English.What he found when he arrived was a town—and a country—undergoing wholesale change from a traditional, countryside existence to a more urban, modern identity. When Things Get Dark documents these changes through the Mongolians Matt meets, but also focuses on the author's downward spiral into alcohol abuse ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2010)
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John
Oct 03, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, library_books
A tough one to review. Davis is a very good writer - I had no problem being "in the moment" as the scenes unfolded. The drinking didn't really get to me as much as (his references to) the domestic violence. There's one drunken, violent scene near the end; I admit I pretty much skipped the details, getting the idea that it was nasty. For me, the Mongolian history seemed more like filler to stretch the details of a not-all-that-thrilling day-to-day existence to book length (word count). So ... wou ...more
Liralen
Jul 15, 2015 Liralen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mongolia is one of those places that I just find interesting—have never been there, might never go there, but...it tickles the imagination.*

This is a Peace Corps memoir, but Davis manages to steer clear of some of the pitfalls of Peace Corps memoirs—he talks about work, sometimes, but he limits the amount he writes about adjusting and talking to other Americans and even teaching English. Instead he focuses on a year spent in Mongolia, with his time there influenced heavily by the Mongolians he k
...more
Anne Reynolds
Feb 10, 2017 Anne Reynolds rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very frank, honest depiction of the author's experience in Mongolia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, interspersed with well researched information about Mongolia's history. It's not "easy" reading, but this book taught me much about both.
Lawrence Lihosit
Matthew Davis witnessed a quickly changing Mongolia. His memoir preserves a brief moment in history like a bee caught in amber. This is an honest memoir written in sparse American-lean. His journalism background served him well.

Flown to Mongolia in the year 2000, a twenty-three year old Davis was assigned to teach English in a remote hamlet struggling with change. Only eleven years after the Soviet retreat following nearly seven decades of occupation, the country has been beset by a series of n
...more
Kathryn
This book is valuable as an ethnography and as a travel guide to Mongolia. Little else was redeeming.

Davis' memoir is a decent snapshot in time of Mongolia in the early 2000s. I say 'decent' because I haven't read much literature on contemporary Mongolia and so cannot compare. An American spends 2 years of his youth in Mongolia, and he captures glimpses of that experience in this book. If you ignore the American overtones, then the social dynamics could actually be interesting -- what Mongolians
...more
Clifford
Sep 08, 2016 Clifford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a writer and former Peace Corps Volunteer, I've read a lot of Peace Corps memoirs. This one is better than most, if only because it goes beyond the sort of daily journal that so many of them are. Here, the author presents a real story--a narrative arc that shows his descent from newly arrived volunteer to a depressed and alcoholic expat, culminating in a dramatic climax and resolution.

Along the way, Davis does share a lot of his experiences, most of which are interesting and revealing of Mong
...more
Claudia
Feb 05, 2012 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Serving in the Peace Corps for a two year stint teaching English in Mongolia, Matthew chronicles the social customs, the economic decline after the fall of the Soviet Union, and politics-the trade off between a depressed economy with greater personal freedoms (Democracy) with those of the old guard who yearned for the days of plenty under a repressive Soviet regime. It is a snap shot of a society of released lambs in search of a living after being penned up by the Soviets with everything needed ...more
Melanie
Apr 16, 2011 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having lived in Mongolia for nearly 11 years including during the time this book covers, I have to say that Davis is very accurate in his portrayal of countryside life and of the state of the country. He's brutally honest about his experiences, not all of which paint a good picture of him, yet still comes out looking good at the end, mainly because he just truly seems to love Mongolia and the friends he made here. I kept thinking how he must have cringed to have his mom and dad read it after des ...more
Ned Charles
Apr 25, 2016 Ned Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The idea of reading this book was to see how a person from a similar culture coped with living in a frozen, remote and poorly equipped part of the world.
Naturally there was little for the author to do other than his teaching job with the Peace Corps, so the book had to have padding. The interlaced padding came in the form of well balanced history. Starting with Genghis Khan and a few other important events on the way to a good coverage of the 20th century and into the 21st century. However the p
...more
Marsha
Sep 10, 2010 Marsha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Davis's writing is quite competent and very readable, and I think that is the main reason I got to the end of it. The problem I had reading it was more of a problem with his experience in Mongolia itself. Nothing exceptionally profound happens there; it's just people living their lives, and their lives appear to be lived in the bottom of a bottle of vodka. It's difficult to get a sense of the beauty of the place through his writings. I did enjoy reading about the history of Mongolia within the c ...more
Alicia
Jul 19, 2011 Alicia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogue
Davis contracted his 2 years of Peace Corps service into a single Mongolian "nine nines" year, which resulted in the book reading like a jumble of people and events compressed into a gimmick. Actual Mongolian storytelling elements are absent, and the author underwhelmed with his attempt to weave cultural and historical interest and memoir. His personal story was flat and spliced with blocks of Mongolian history that made me interested in neither. For a more interesting read on a similar topic, I ...more
Andrea
Jul 05, 2010 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago I considered traveling to Mongolia as part of a global trip but the country intimidated me, so I'm there vicariously through Davis who spent time there teaching English. The author integrated a lot of the history of Mongolia in his telling. For some reason, this didn't work for me. I found the historical passages tedious and not so illuminating.
Karen
Aug 27, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this 3 1/2 stars. This interesting book was written by a peace corps volunteer who spent 2 years in Mongolia. He weaves his own story together with the history of the places he visited. One side-effect of reading this book is that I have no desire to ever visit Mongolia. The food, smoking, drinking, and pollution all sounded very grim.
John Russell
What little interest this book did hold for me was probably due to my also being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia, albeit a decade after Davis. While many of the stories are interesting, they are presented in a vain, distasteful manner. I was glad to be done.
Tait Sougstad
Sep 21, 2013 Tait Sougstad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exactly the kind of book I was looking for about Mongolia: part travelogue, part history, part ethnography, all wrapped up in story. Matthew Davis pulls back the curtain on a land full of mystery and wonder, while still preserving those attributes in his love for the people.
Donna Jo Atwood
I picked this up on a whim and I'm glad I did. Although at times Davis seemed a little whiny, it was still an interesting read.
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