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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

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  58 ratings  ·  13 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 a ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2010)
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John
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
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
Melanie
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
Claudia
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
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
Alicia
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
Marsha
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
Andrea
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
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.
Tait Sougstad
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.
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.
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.
Michele
well written, but not what I was expecting. Mostly a lot of Mongolian history..
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