**spoiler alert** An occasionally interesting, yet strangely unsatisfying read.
The setting is in Eastern Tibet, which has taken on more of China's att**spoiler alert** An occasionally interesting, yet strangely unsatisfying read.
The setting is in Eastern Tibet, which has taken on more of China's attributes than the rest of Tibet. It starts just before the last Emperor is deposed.
The POV character is the second son, considered an idiot, of one of the Tibetan Chieftains. His birth circumstances guaranteed that he would be an idiot from birth, to those around him. They treat him like one , so he behaves like one. It gives him an advantage in that he can do or say anything in his highly regimented society and get away with it. But he is not considered worth listening to, or worthy of any specific task.
He isn't a bad character, but it gets tiring to follow him around. The story is slice of life, or what I call fly on the wall. You watch what goes on, there is no specific story or event. I enjoy this style if the events and setting are interesting enough. I didn't find that to be the case in this book. There were times when the characters or the settings were interesting, but the events never were (standard life stuff). Sometimes it was fun to see the 'idiot' come out on top or best those who thought they were smarter than he was. But the book was over 400 pages, and that was too long, not to have an actual story or purpose.
It was interesting to see the history of the region unfold with the coming of modernity. The story ends with the triumph of the Red Chinese and their penetration into Eastern Tibet.
The writing isn't bad, being a translation. At times it seems that they are trying to pass on the rustic manner of speaking. I found the story flowed well, it just didn't grab me with the content.
It is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, though I don't think any more have been published. If more are published, I won't be reading them.
It also should be noted that the person who wrote the book is an ethnic Tibetan, who lives in China. You can't be sure that this isn't positive propaganda, approved by the government to show the decadent pre-revolution lifestyle...more
I read this book for my RL Fiction group - we do non-fiction as well.
It was interesting, had lots of details, a narrow focus, but needed a bit more coI read this book for my RL Fiction group - we do non-fiction as well.
It was interesting, had lots of details, a narrow focus, but needed a bit more context. It is subtitled 'Just Before the Storm' , but the only thing I can come up with is WWI. It was 3 years off however, so not really 'Just Before'. They were going through social change and conflict over it on several levels, but I imagine that is true all the time everywhere. If not the society would be dead.
I thought she could have set the stage a bit better at the start too. I had some familiarity with the time period, not sure if someone who is new to the subject would be lost or not.
It is a look at the summer of 1911, and the people mentioned are used as examples of the classes, incidents and the tone she was including in the book, their stories are not the point of the book. Have seen reviews were people are confused about that, because it does move around and people and their stories pop in and out....more
**spoiler alert** Tengu is the 3rd book in this series. The focus of the stories is on Connor Burke and his attempts to master the martial arts with h**spoiler alert** Tengu is the 3rd book in this series. The focus of the stories is on Connor Burke and his attempts to master the martial arts with his Japanese teacher, Yamashita.
The series is set in the modern day in New York City, though the stories incorporate a lot of travel. Connor is a PHD in Asian History and teaches as a part time college instructor when he can. His life is centered on his relationship with his Sensei, and the Sensei's Dojo where Connor also teaches and learns. He is also part of a large Irish clan, and he is particularly close to his brother, Mickey, a cop in NYC.
The relationship between Connor and his brother and Mickey's partner Art is another aspect of the stories. It grounds Connor in the modern day, and real life. It is also how Connor often gets involved in the mystery/thriller aspect of the stories. He is brought in as an outside expert/consultant on Asian/martial arts crimes. He also has connections and obligations as the primary student of Yamashita and that brings in the Japanese aspects of the stories. Donohue blends the various strands well to tell a modern day story influenced by the past and other cultures.
While the series is called a martial arts thriller the focus is not just on macho actions, technique and chicken screaming. What Connor is trying to learn is the whole ball of wax: the discipline, the beliefs, the way to exist in the world minute to minute; the essence that when absorbed will change the person's spirit as surely as the practice of the techniques will change the physical body. The book doesn't wallow in the mystical or metaphysical, but does show Connor's attempts, doubts and struggles to learn and incorporate into his life these more difficult lessons. It makes for a reflective POV and a more rounded and interesting character.
There are martial arts fights, and talk about them, but it never bogs down the story or stops the flow. There is also information about Japanese culture, history and the different schools of martial arts. The various techniques with their strengths and flaws are discussed in a way that explores how they are taught, their underlying philosophy, and how to defend against them. It is very informative and very interesting, but worked into the story rather than added as an info dump.
I have read the other 2 previous books in the series Sensei and Deshi, but am not a martial arts aficionado (though I do love Erik Van Lustbader’s books as well). What I do enjoy is a well written book with an interesting setting, good characters and an absorbing story. Donohue delivers on all accounts. Tengu is built on the events in the previous books, so they should be read first.
I read this book in one sitting. It was a bit slow at the start, but when Connor made an appearance it sucked me right in and never let go. This story is based on the events of a previous book. Another old Japanese martial arts master has a grudge against Yamashita, and has concocted a plot to exact his revenge. It involves kidnapping a Japanese graduate anthropology student from a wealthy and important family, the use of Muslim terrorists and it all takes place in the Philippines. We also get glimpses of the US military working against terrorists at home and those who are working with the Filipinos to fight them in the field.
In this book Connor is also trying to build a relationship with a woman he likes, and deal with the loss of his college job. I like the self-depreciating humor in the book and that the stories are about Connor and happen to be mysteries and thrillers. They have depth and warmth, and are not just shallow mystery or adventure books with cardboard people who you don't believe have a life, and who you can't care about.
The writing is clear, and the descriptions are orderly so you know what is going on. The story flows and while the ending is a bit too good to be true, I am happy with it. It also shows the painful growth Connor has gone through, and points to a change for the future, so the stories are not recycled.
I have only two disappointments with this book.
1. I couldn't make it last longer. 2. It takes Donohue two years to write/publish.
Lets hope the next one is in process, but it will be hard to wait for 2010....more
A Season of Migration to the North is about the universal striving for something better. Unfortunately when the journey takes you out of your own culA Season of Migration to the North is about the universal striving for something better. Unfortunately when the journey takes you out of your own culture, the price is very high.
There are 2 main characters in the book. The first is the narrator, a nameless young Sudanese man who has returned to his village after being educated in the West. He returns to a land that is no longer ruled by the colonizers – the British, but their legacy remains and not only helps, but corrupts the native Sudanese. The help is seen in the progress made to ease daily life: water wheels become pumps, cars and trucks take the place of camels and donkeys. The harm is that the pattern for living for success (not just personal but for the country) has been changed from Sudanese to British: Learning English, worshipping statistics, meetings and conferences, buildings that are not able to be finished or supported.
The Sudanese pattern is the family, the tribe or village, and the wise council of the elders, who look to the past for answers. Life is slow and patterned on the Nile which flows by the village. It brings water that sustains life and that destroys (excessive flooding). It mixes all the drops together (people) which enhances their ability to get things done. It changes course as it encounters obstacles, but it keeps moving forward. Eventually it enters the sea (death) and the ‘river’ is lost.
The Sudanese who have brains and talent are educated beyond the village level, but only so they can become little bureaucrats and say ‘yes’ in English for the new masters of the country. Those natives who are smarter, richer, and more well-connected, who live the debauched life of rich Westerners (in comparison to the austere communal life of the Sudanese village on the edge of the river, surrounded on one side by fields and the other by desert).
The narrator returns to Sudan and his village, and he is still Sudanese, but he can see the cracks and the problems in a different non-Sudanese light. He doesn’t know what to do. Should he stay Sudanese and ignore the problems, or should he bring his British education to bear, and help them, but make them less Sudanese in the process and the end result? The book ends with him unable to decide which course to take, but it ends with him in the river asking for the help of the villagers, so they can decide together what is the best course to take. Letting each person take responsibility for the course and form of their own life.
The second main character is less successful at handling the cross cultural difficulty. He is also smarter, wealthier, and more capable intellectually, but he lacked any feeling for his roots, and ultimately for any person. He worshipped knowledge, and the life of the mind. His name was Mustapha and he was the first Sudanese to go abroad to study. He awed all he met with his ease of learning, and his intelligence.
He became a ‘suitable African’ in 1960s Britain because he was seen as a ‘Black Englishman’ and was adopted and made much of by the intellectual set. But since he had no connection to his roots, he had no ability to resist the temptation to act out the ‘noble exotic former savage’. He was particularly at risk with European women who wanted the thrill of the exotic. Lacking any real emotion he settled for sensation seeking, and spent his time stalking, using and eventually abandoning many women as sexual toys. Eventually he finds a woman who turns the table and he becomes both the stalker and the prey, the one begging for attention and the one who spurns the other. Lacking control he eventually kills the woman. He is brought to trial, sentenced to 7 years, and upon his release he returns to Sudan. He lands in the same small village as the narrator, marries, has 2 sons and tries to work within the village structure to make life better. He keeps his past secret and attempts to blend Sudan/Britain, North/South, education/tradition. He dies and they are not sure if he drowned accidentally in the flood or if he committed suicide. He had wrapped his life up, given instructions to his wife, and the care of his wife and sons to the narrator just before dying.
The narrator is unable to act properly because it is not traditional to let your widow do as she wants with only an outside male (narrator) to consult. Mustapha tells the narrator to let her do as she wishes. The wife and the narrator have been influenced by the West. The village meanwhile operates on tradition. The widow has a father and brothers who expect to make important decisions for her. They agree to a marriage offer from an old wealthy man in the village. The widow does not wish to remarry. The narrator does not stand up for her rights, and for his own part in the decision making process. The marriage is forced on the widow and tragedy ensues. The narrator is left alienated from his people and his past. He tried not to force the European way on them, but his letting tradition take its course has fatal consequences to lives he could have saved.
He finally confronts the full extent of Mustapha’s Westernization: his secret room. It is an upscale British drawing room locked away behind a steel door at Mustapha’s house. It contains dark wood, stained glass, marble, statuary, paintings, photos, and walls and walls of books (all European). It was Mustapha’s temple, a place where he could pretend and worship all that he could never really be in the flesh. The Brits only accepted him like a trained monkey – a novelty, and the Sudanese would not understand or value the room and the history and culture that filled the room. Mustapha was never able to integrate the two cultures. The narrator feels the same inability, but eventually it is his connection to the humanity of his village and his emotional connection to his roots that let him take a different path from Mustapha, at the last minute.
Both the narrator and Mustapha end up with a body count. Mustapha killed his European wife, and his behavior led to several suicides. His inability to be truly European, his lack of grounding in his own culture let him act capriciously with the fate of others. The narrator's attempt at being the same person after his education as before, let him act traditionally, but it still resulted in death. Like the river he needed to change course to deal with the obstacle, but he is not strong enough to do so in time to prevent tragedy.
The book has been compared to Heart of Darkness in reverse. It also references Othello. It is a very short, very well written story that presents the dilemma of change and growth using outside cultures, and does so on a human level. You can see the impact on the lives of the characters....more