Marvelous. Great read! Why? Well, it is informative - it depicts the life of a Raj orphan, of which there were many. Through books such as this histor...moreMarvelous. Great read! Why? Well, it is informative - it depicts the life of a Raj orphan, of which there were many. Through books such as this history becomes real, not just a subject of dates and numbers. I like learning as I read. Furthermore FILTH, the main character of the book, does not have an ordinary life, but as the author emphasizes everyone mistakenly thought he did. How often do we think that that person doesn't have our problems? Think if we only knew more about all these ordinary people! How often do we truly know other people?
FILTH stands for "Failed In London Try Hong Kong" and he was employed in the British Legal system. This is a man who truly believes in justice, whatever that is! This is a man who did his best to live a worthy life regardless of the difficulties life threw at him. Some authors love misery and almost regale in it, but Gardam although depicting very difficult circumstances, shows how humans can struggle through. Each character found their own way to survive. Succes/survival is never a defined unvaried solution. There is never only one way to achieve it. The diversity of people and how we each deal with life is amazing.(less)
Simon Winchester never fails to entice the reader, and here in the audiobook version he marvelously reads his own book. He teaches effortlessly. He in...moreSimon Winchester never fails to entice the reader, and here in the audiobook version he marvelously reads his own book. He teaches effortlessly. He infuses humor into his lines. He writes about characters and places and times that are interesting. His books focus not only on the details but also encompass the larger picture; you are delivered not only one man's life but also world events.
In this book we follow Joseph Needham from childhood to death. He lived from 1900-1995. He was a bio-chemist at Cambridge University. In 1943 he was sent to China by the Royal Society as the Director of the Sino-British Science Cooperation Office to promote scientific cooperation, and author of momentous seventeen volume opus The Science and Civilization in China. This is only a listing of his most prominent feats. During the Korean War he led an investigation of America’s alleged use of biological weapons. He established the scientific department of UNESCO. He was a womanizer, with a wife in Britain and a mistress in New York and a string of women in China too. His wife, his mistress and he were the best of friends…. from beginning to end; clearly he was of the Edwardian rather than the Victorian age! A socialist, a chain smoker, a lover of trains and fast cars and pretty women, lots of pretty women. I am repeating that for emphasis. And foremost of all his loves was his love for China, instilled by his life-long mistress of Chinese birth. She was from Nanjing. No children, the threesome's child was in fact China. Joseph Needham had one primary mission in life and that was to make the world aware of China's role in fostering innumerable scientific inventions. China was the first to invent the plow, the wheelbarrow, the kite and playing cards, the compass, the printing press, the stirrup, toilet paper, the umbrella, the small-pox vaccine, suspension bridges, tree grafts. I have named but a few. Needham has calculated that China was the source of 15 major inventions per century, until the fifteen hundreds and then the creativity stopped. Needham looked at that too, and poses the Needham Question: why did it stop and what does the future hold for China? All of this is covered in Winchester’s and Needham’s own book.
I questioned if Needham was only sent to China to promote scientific cooperation. It feels rather odd that while so many were killed in the Japanese-Sino conflict, Needham was there solely to promote scientific cooperation. His travels in China during the war are both exciting and interesting, but was he sent there with another motive too? That was a question I pondered. Spies are mentioned, and yet Needham never reveals their secrets. I wish Winchester had covered this with more depth, but otherwise I loved the book. (less)
I feel totally terrible on giving up on this book. It is a very good book, but I believe it will not be readable for many. Or maybe I should put it th...moreI feel totally terrible on giving up on this book. It is a very good book, but I believe it will not be readable for many. Or maybe I should put it this way – it cannot be appreciated as it should be unless you either have a thorough knowledge of chemistry or are willing to read the book slowly and do the experiments, look at the pinecones and sunflowers and investigate alongside the author as he speaks of his childhood in London. His family is one of scholars. These people were those very few who can take book knowledge and in an instant give you an example in nature that demonstrates what is in the books. His parents, although certainly no gilded pair since they were absent for much of the time, infused in him the wonder of knowledge. Every paragraph in the book prompts one to go out and do an experiment, look at a pinecone or a sunflower. To appreciate this book as it should be you should do and see what he saw as his parents and aunts and uncles guided him through science, giving him a hands-on visual, auditory and olfactory knowledge of what happens when you mix this chemical with that or view and touch an object of nature. To understand and really remember each paragraph one should do the experiments he did and carefully observe what he looked at in nature. It was too much for me to read example after example of experiments, such as the formation of colorful crystals when you put a thread in a solution of x and add a pinch of this or that. There were so many examples that I drowned and lost count and felt bereaved by my lack of knowledge. Clearly there is nothing wrong with this book, but it is simply better appreciated by someone who is willing to read it slowly and investigate all the marvels it speaks of. For me it was too jam packed full of things that I had not seen.
This is why I am continuing no further. I am too lacking in knowledge. This book is too smart for me. If you are able to relax and not demand that you see what he saw through each of the experiments and tests he carried out, then maybe you will enjoy the book. It is perfect for those of you who already have the scientific knowledge he speaks of. It is an autobiography of his childhood in London starting with the events of the Blitz and his first stay in one of those horrible English boarding schools where the headmasters are despicable. You come to understand why he is who he is and how his youth shaped him. I highly recommend this book to those who are well educated in the sciences, particularly chemistry. (less)
If a GR Librarian read this could you combine Someone Knows My Name and The Book of Negroes. They are the same book!
I have no trouble giving this fiv...moreIf a GR Librarian read this could you combine Someone Knows My Name and The Book of Negroes. They are the same book!
I have no trouble giving this five stars. This is fiction that adds to history, that makes history come alive! Great writing. The story about Aminata and the slave trade is engrossing. Who she is as a person and how she develops and changes during her life is reflected in her thoghts and speech. Her closeness to Africa and the African people is physically felt by the reader. At least I felt it. There was a warmth that you couldn't miss when she was with her own people, when she was in her own land. I wanted to be part of what which she was sharing with her own people. Hill has written a great story. It is hard to put down.
I must now also read Olaudah's autobiography, a true story of a Nigerian who lived at the same time period. He freed himself from slavery. He lived to write about his exceptional life.(less)
I thought I'd add the following. The book is about Thomas Blake Glover, born (1838-1911)and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland. When he was only 21 he was e...moreI thought I'd add the following. The book is about Thomas Blake Glover, born (1838-1911)and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland. When he was only 21 he was employed by Jardine Matheson in the tea trade and moved to Nagasaki. If one wants a detailed information of his accomplishments in Japan one can read Wikepedia, this book or, as I did, both. If one reads Wikepedia this man and his life does not come alive. The book does exactly this and more. Some say the opera Madame Butterfly is based on his Japanese wife, but this is disputed.
I really came to care for the main characters, Guraba (Glover's Japanese nickname), the Japanese women in his life, several of his Japanese friends and even his enemies. I prefer to call Glover Guruba because in spirit he became more Japanese than Scottish. Most foreigners were in Japan for money or colonial pursuits. Don't get me wrong, Guraba also wanted to make money. He made a fortune, lost it and made another fortune! Through hard work and imaginative ideas. I liked his get-up-and-go attitude. In the department of sentiments he truly loved his Japanese women. Yes, there were several, but he never treated any of them dishonorably. Through little stories told by the book's charactersJapan's customs and beliefs are beautifully described. I would love to have a "daruma", a carved little doll that is rounded on the bottom. No matter how many times you knock it over, it rolls and rights itself again. A perfect depiction of Guraba himself. These stories and haiku poetry are beautiful interwoven into the book.
If one has ever visited Japan, one will recognize so much. You will think, "Yes, I remember that!"
The author also tackles the importance of honour in Japanese culture. I am wondering if this honor is the cause of both Japan's extreme refinement and brutality. Think of Japanese gardens, gift wrapping, textiles and, art. Think also of the horrific Japanese brutality in war.
Glover played a key role in the modern industrialisation of Japan. He opened the first coal mine, naval dry-docks and railroad line. He helped found the Japan Brewery Company. He took an active part in the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate, to be followed by the Meiji government. It is amazing all the stuff this guy did!
I just finished this book. I am totally numb. The ending is quite different from the rest of the book. Or maybe it really isn't. The book is engrossing, beautiful and wise. Maybe I will be able to write coherently when the whole has sunk in. I simply don't know where to start; how to explain why this is such a wonderful book.(less)
I loved this short little book. At the start there stands the words: "Nothing in this book is true, except for the love between her and him." The depi...moreI loved this short little book. At the start there stands the words: "Nothing in this book is true, except for the love between her and him." The depiction of her, Ms Z's, love for him is so true that the book truly shines. This is reason enough to read the book. In addition how it feels to struggle in a new country with a new language is fabulously described. That a land's culture is entwined with its language is another important aspect of the book.Finally there were interesting tidbits about China and its language that I enjoyed. I so wish Ms Z was a person I knew, so our friendship could continue. (less)
I read this ages ago. I am not sure I would want to read it now, but I do know that I really enjoyed it back then. I have added a shelf for this kind...moreI read this ages ago. I am not sure I would want to read it now, but I do know that I really enjoyed it back then. I have added a shelf for this kind of book - "fluff".(less)
Wonderful book! Both light and amusing and serious, gripping and informative. This is a must-read for everyone; one of those books that is just so muc...moreWonderful book! Both light and amusing and serious, gripping and informative. This is a must-read for everyone; one of those books that is just so much fun to read. (less)