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Burmese Lessons: A true love story

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Orange Prize–winner Karen Connelly’s compelling memoir about her journey to Burma, where she fell in love with a leader of the Burmese rebel army.

When Karen Connelly goes to Burma in 1996 to gather information for a series of articles, she discovers a place of unexpected beauty and generosity. She also encounters a country ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that impo...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published May 18th 2010 by Nan A. Talese (first published September 15th 2009)
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Aimee
Nov 10, 2010 Aimee rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: asian
Given the rave reviews from many sources, and Connelly's reputation as a writer, I found this memoir altogether disappointing. The book centers on her love affair with Maung, a charismatic Burmese Freedom fighter. In the background, Connelly writes about the struggles and suffering of the Burmese, which was why she was in Burma and Northern Thailand. Much ado was made over her graphic descriptions of her sexual encounters, and while we are all "young, dumb, and full of c--" at one point in our l...more
Susan
Having read Karen Connelly's novel "The Lizard Cage," which the author wrote after this compelling memoir "Burmese Lessons: A True Love Story," I better understand Connelly's background and qualifications for "The Lizard Cage." Sponsored by PEN Canada, Connelly went to Burma and Thailand in 1966 to get information on Burmese political prisoners. While she was in Burma, she observed first-hand the tyrannical ruling military in a violent street demonstration by Buddhist monks in Rangoon. She also...more
Jaime
I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it I loved and I had a hard time putting down the book. But about half-way through at the beginning of the love story I stalled. I struggled through a couple of chapters before becoming engrossed in the book all over again.
Aban (Aby)
Burmese Lessons, an account of Connelly's brief time in Burma and in Thailand in 1996, is a love story in more than one way. She writes with great affection for Burma and its people and the grace and beauty she found in both. She also writes about her love affair with a young Burmese dissident.

I loved Connelly's book "The Lizard Cage". "Burmese Lessons" provides the reader with insight into the creation of the earlier book. Connelly spent her weeks in Burma interviewing political dissidents incl...more
Rachael Preston
Unflinchingly honest. Exotic locale, politics, cultural contentions and obsessive love--what more can you ask for? The fact that this is memoir and not fiction only makes me wish I'd been so brave.
Kelli
This book started off real slow. Not very exciting at first, but then finally picked up in pace. I personally thought it was stupid that this woman would put herself in danger when she didn't need to. She is no hero for doing this. When one can avoid trouble then smartly do it. I can't feel sorry for people who would deliberately put themselves in danger.
It is just like someone climbing Mount Everest then they make they news because they got frostbite and lost a leg, etc. How stupid...don't cli...more
Cindy
This was a very interesting and gripping memoir of the author's life in Burma and Thailand. There is a political side to the memoir and a love story woven in which makes the story very complex and eye-opening. I found myself transported back in time to this beautiful country with all its political upheaval and unrest.
Wavelength
As I started reading Burmese Lessons, I felt I had found a kindred soul. Seeing Burma through Karen Connelly’s eyes was almost as good as traveling there myself. I, too… "am infected with the desire to grasp meanings, which makes it difficult to keep things simple.” I, too… “have closed my eyes and stirred a spoon around my gut.” I appreciated her descriptions of the Burmese people, “The eyes look at me so directly; their aliveness is shocking…. In most Western cities, strangers avoid eye contac...more
Jeanette
This book gripped me from the first page. It is a memoir about the author's time living in Burma and Northern Thailand when she was doing research for a book about Burma. The description of the people she met, interviewed and the friends that she made was fascinating. I enjoyed being allowed to have a glimpse into the very secretive world of Burmese life. I also admire her willingness to take risks to tell the story that needs to be told about the way the Burmese people have to live under their...more
BookMarc
I would suggest to you that Karen Connelly is not a writer. Instead, I would put forward the argument that she is an artist who paints pictures with words. The sentences she writes exude literary color and vibrancy like thousands of Bollywood dancers all dressed in the brightest and most eye catching Saris performing their greatest routine. On more than one occasion I found tears streaming down my face when I took myself out of the narrative. I had become overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the p...more
Diane
Karen Connelly spent a year in Thailand as a 17 year old student. I read her book about that experience and found it interesting but immature. In Burmese Lessons Connelly returns to Thailand and to Burma as a 27 year old writer. Her intention is to interview Burmese writers, artists and others, especially women, who have been imprisoned and censored. The interviews that she shares in the book are interesting. She says that people who have spent years in jail crave personal relationships, and spe...more
Shonna Froebel
This memoir of the author's time visiting Burma and her relationship with a Burmese dissident is honest and emotional, but also touches on the idea of identity. She initially visits Burma to write about a writer who is being imprisoned, but ends up falling in love with Burma and its people. She meets many interesting people struggling to gain democracy for their country who are or have been imprisoned and tortured for their actions. When she meets and falls for a leader of the dissident movement...more
Carol
What did I like about this book? Connelly's descriptions of Bangkok were dead-on; she made you smell and taste Bangkok with her vivid and accurate visual images. I learned so much about Burma, the Burmese people, and the situation there and am challenged to read more. I liked her focus on women in the Burmese political struggle. Her descriptions of the border camps were eye opening. The love story was missing something for me as I guess it was for her. Their love seemed more sexual and less roma...more
Jane Spencer
This is an amazing story told by Karen Connelly, a Canadian who spends part of her year in Greece (lucky!)
At age 28 she travels to northern Thailand and into Burma. She meets several Burmese refugees turned revolutionaries, interviews Aung San Suu Kyi, witnesses military attacks on demonstrators, falls in love with a revolutionary leader, lives in a border jungle camp and practices Buddhist meditation. Since she had spent her youth living with a Thai family she speaks Thai and tries to learn Bu...more
Debbie Maskus
The plight of the Burmese garnered my attention, and I felt Karen Connelly might do the subject justice. The book started with much promise, but halfway through the book, the central theme became Maung. Karen mentions her love of Burma, and the yearning to be in Burma, but I miss the raison d'etre. The grueling conditions both in the jungle and in the city provide no clue to this love with Burma. The people and the culture are amazing, but their spirit is not fully captured. The plight of the Bu...more
Susan
This is a very interesting story, but it lacks the flow of either Touch the Dragon or The Lizard Cage. Still, it was a very engaging book, and I read it in one sitting. This book has one of the most memorable passages I've read in a long time: Karen is on the street and walks into a demonstration. She's pulled into an alley by monks who are hiding from the military. I love this passage because it illustrates the generosity of the Burmese, even in situations that are clearly dangerous for them.

Th...more
Brian
Connelly writes with an honesty that is refreshing. She writes about meeting with dissidents and protesters in Rangoon while researching for her novel, The Lizard Cage. The Lizard Cage is a powerful book written about the military juanta and how the people are being abused by their own government. Lessons lacks the power of her fiction because it is swamped with too much detail and repetition. The book (460 pages) would have been better if a third of the book had been edited out. Writing needs t...more
Lisa Lewis
This book has numerous flaws, in my eyes. It is meandering, too long, gives much cultural and political information without building to any meaningful statements, and is written by someone who seems rather self-absorbed. It is meant to be a love story, and it kind of is... although I think it maybe more Connelly's love for southeast Asia that is truly described than her love for Maung, which seems more sexual fascination and obsession with an idea of someone who loves her and maybe, could be, th...more
Grace
I really enjoyed this story. It makes you want to travel as far away as possible and experience a different world and culture.
Debra
Thank you Goodreads. Just won this book!
Received my copy - thanks again Goodreads.

I was excited to read about Burma and the military dictatorship the Burmese people live under since I know nothing about this subject. The book was very informative and gave me a good feel for the oppressive lifestyle the Burmese people are forced to live. I have to say I liked the first half of the book better than the second half probably because the last part of the book focused more on Maung, her lover, than on...more
Leslie
Feb 27, 2014 Leslie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From Long Beach "Literary Women" 2014 roster.
Miko Lee
This is one of the books that I had to parse out my reading times as I was so enthralled with the characters. True story of Canadian PEN member who travels to Burma to meet with imprisoned writers. It is in the neighboring Thailand where she meets and falls in love with one of the exiled guerilla leaders. Captivating book that brings alive the sights, sounds and smells of South east asia. Immediately brought me back to years ago living with a Karen Hill Tribe in the rainforest of Thailand. I am...more
Tuck
this author is getting better and better. this is much better written than her "one room in castle" which admittedly was pretty depressing, her looking for her lost sister (in the basque country, from an od? or suicide? or foul play?), but this one too is pretty damn depressing too. burma was and is really really fucked up, and beautiful. its seems connelly has the corner on beautiful writing and very depressing things. Even her love affair depressed me :(
i
must
stop
reading
books
about
burma
and
karen...more
Cheriee
At times this book dragged. I had a hard time with her love affair - partly I think because in the first 1/3 it seems that she might be going to have a relationship with her guide in Burma. I personally had become attached to him, so when Maung came along I didn't like him.
However, Connelly certainly can write and it is her descriptions and phrasing that make this book work for me. I cared deeply about Myanmar and the people she wrote about. It is thought provoking, terrifying and heartbreaking...more
Fiona
First, I have to say that I won this book from Goodreads.

It was a good book, although it took me forever to get through it. The author brought to attention the situation in Burma and it has informed me a lot. That was what is interesting in the book. But the second half of the book it shifted focus to Maung. I would have liked more to learn more about Burma and the people, and why Karen Connelly love the country since I do not see that...

I would recommend it to others who are curious about Bur...more
Leslie
Having just returned from Burma (Myanmar) I found this book very enlightening on the political situation and what some of the people have experiences in the name of democracy. A very poor country whose people deserve much more - a higher quality of life, a more stable and progressive government. I as constantly amazed to what lengths people will go to fight for what they believe in. Not a true love story but a truly amazing lifestory.
Rachel
Perhaps I would have enjoyed Burmese Lessons more if I had read Touch the Dragon, Connelly's earlier memoir, first. As it was, I think I needed a little more of the context of her life in order to understand her. She is clearly an intelligent and interesting woman who actively grapples with her own ignorance and her place in the world as a white person and a woman in the predominantly male world of Burmese revolutionaries.
Norma
Good down to earth story of how a young woman finds herself in Thailand and her involvement with the Burmese dissidents of the Thai/Burma border. Self-awareness is one of it's themes and ultimately an important aspect of the decisions made. I found it interesting and informative, especially the reasons for the ultimate decision. The author is originally from Calgary, so it's always fun to support a local author.
Karima
Didn't finish. Very turned off by (unnecessary) explicit sex scenes between the author and her new-found love.
I imagine, if I toughed it out, I would feel more empathetic with Ms. Connelly's dilemma when she finds herself falling in love with a political dissident in Burma (Myanmar). Since I chose not to do so I can't honestly add much more.
I highly recommend her previous work of fiction: THE LIZARD CAGE.
Ferris
Excellent piece of non-fiction which reads like a novel. I could not put it down. The author's journey in Burma and "on the border" are informatively transformed into a gripping narrative. I learned about Burmese politics and the opposition to the status quo. The sections about student protestors and political prisoners were really well written! Just shy of 400 pages, it felt like 100!
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Karen Connelly was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1969, to a large working class family. One of Canada’s best-known and most successful younger writers, she is the author of nine books of best-selling nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. She has read from her work and lectured in Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She has won the Pat Lowther Award for her poetry, the Governor General’s Award for her n...more
More about Karen Connelly...
The Lizard Cage Touch The Dragon: A Thai Journal Dream of a Thousand Lives: A Sojourn in Thailand One Room in a Castle: Letters from Spain, France and Greece The Disorder of Love

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