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In a Land of Paper Gods

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  264 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Jiangxi Province, China, 1941

Atop the fabled mountain of Lushan, celebrated for its temples, capricious mists and plunging ravines, perches a boarding school for the children of British missionaries. As her parents pursue their calling to bring the gospel to China's most remote provinces, ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson discovers that she has been singled out for a div
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 28th 2016 by Tinder Press
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Mackenzie has chosen a fascinating basis for her story: the experience of Christian missionaries, and their children, in China before and during WW2. The narrative voice is predominantly that of young Henrietta, the child of parents busy spreading the word of God. Growing up within the influence of two cultures means that Etta is an interesting character, if not likeable. The historical events of the period move from the background of the story to the explosive foreground, the steady ad
David Reviews
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In a Land of Paper Gods is set in China. She is born there and this is Henrietta’s story.

Blond and pale she is the daughter of missionaries and for the first six years of Henrietta’s life she is known by her Chinese name Ming-Mei meaning Bright and Beautiful. Author Rebecca Mackenzie’s debut novel is delightfully descriptive and this is a book of thoroughly engaging historical fiction. We following six year old Etta’s (Henrietta S. Robertson) journey in 1941 to the Lushan Missionary School on t
Apr 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, april-2017
I found the first half of Rebecca Mackenzie's In a Land of Paper Gods far more interesting than the second. Whilst I wasn't overly enamoured by many of the characters, the sense of place was strongly evoked. Regardless, I have read historical novels rather like this one which have held my interest more, and little about it struck me as particularly original. It is a nicely written book, but Mackenzie is not an author whom I'll go out of my way to read the future work of.
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

“My name is Henrietta S. Robertson. That’s my English name… My Chinese name is Ming-Mei.”

As the child of members of the Interior Alliance Mission, Henrietta has grown up between two cultures: English and Chinese. From the age of six she was sent to boarding school on a mountain in the Jiangxi Province, where four years later she remains as a small, pale, lonely girl.

For a girl as young as ten, Etta has a big imagination. She decides tha
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine if you were born and raised in a foreign country by your parents, picking up the native tongue and given a native name by which you were known until you were 6 years old. And then you are sent away to school on a remote mountain in a different part of that vast foreign country. This is what happens to Ming-Mei, or Etta (Henrietta S. Robertson to give her her full name), the main character in In the Land of Paper Gods, born to British missionary parents in China. The novel opens in 1941 a ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A compelling read. The final third in particular is excellent.

Jackie Law
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In a Land of Paper Gods, by Rebecca MacKenzie, is a book that I approached with high expectations having read many glowing reviews. Perhaps for this reason it took some time before I felt fully engaged. Yet the early chapters were necessary in order to understand what came next. By half way through my heart was hurting for what had been done to the young protagonist. This was the human cost of religious fervour from a point of view I had not previously considered, and having been inspired by tru ...more
Maya Panika
Set in china in the nineteen forties, this is the tale of a group of children caught up in the Japanese invasion of china. The children of missionaries are sent by their parents to a boarding school in Jiangxi Province - abandoned, as many see it; some will never see their parents again.
The best of In a Land of Paper Gods is the powerful and richly detailed setting of the Missionary school in Lushan, on a mountain sacred to the Chinese, the clever weaving of history with fiction and some terrifi
Linda Hill
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A no -spoilers review of a stunning debut here
Henrietta (Etta) S. Robertson is sent to Lushan, a private school for the children of missionaries in China. Here Etta will learn what it is that makes us who we are.

I’m astounded by In a Land of Paper Gods. I found that I didn’t really read the book as much as absorb it and experience it. Beautifully written, the descriptions are so evocative that I could picture each so clearly. Rebecca MacKenzie has a perfe
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
In a Land of Paper Gods opens in 1940 whilst Etta, aged 10, is attending a school for the children of missionaries – a boarding school that enables their parents to continue with their work of introducing Christianity to the Chinese without having children to look after.

Etta’s childhood is an unusual one, and she seems trapped in a strange limbo between two vastly different cultures, never fully belonging to either of them. Initially raised in the Chinese province where her parents seek to conve
Etta who is the main character of this beautiful and thought provoking west meets east story, is not a particularly likable character. She and her school friends are children to the christian missionaries that do God’s work somewhere in China while their children are given ”good education” in a christian spirit in a boarding school in the same country, but very far away from most of the families. The II World War is in progress, but it has not reached China yet. It is through Etta’s 10 years old ...more
Anne Goodwin
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: debut-novelists
Ten-year-old Henrietta Robertson has been boarding at a school halfway up a sacred mountain for the past four years. Partly due to the distance, partly because much of China is now under Japanese occupation, she’s been home only twice and, if it weren’t for the photograph beside her bed, she wouldn’t know how to recognise her missionary parents. Battling against Big Bum Eileen for leadership of the girls of Dormitory A, she establishes a society of prophetesses. But her friends’ interest wanes w ...more
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
You are 10 years old, and it's 1941 in China. Your parents are missionaries and have sent you to boarding school in faraway Lushen. Your name is Etta and you are about to grow up in so many ways.
This is Rebecca Mackenzie's first novel and it packs a punch. The writing is exquisite particularly the descriptions of a war torn China. The character of Etta is one of a mixed up, bewildered and lost young girl. Etta misses her parents, at times forgetting what her parents even look like and if she wi
Phil Butcher
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best fiction books I read in 2016. It's set in a boarding school in China for the children of missionaries during World War 2. She writes in such a way that you really feel for the characters. The plot is fascinating too. I didn't want it to end.
Oct 04, 2020 rated it liked it
My Book Group is one where we all read the same book, and each choose from the Book Discussion Scheme catalogue. This was my choice - the catalogue had a subject heading of humourous - but oh, it was a disappointment. And I feel dreadful saying that, when the writer put so much heart and research into it, and it had a great premise - but it needed more.

At 6, Henrietta is sent away from her missionary parents to school. This is China, where many souls need to be saved, and so children are sent fr
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018books
Atop the fabled mountain of Lushan, celebrated for its temples, capricious mists and plunging ravines, perches a boarding school for the children of British missionaries. As her parents pursue their calling to bring the gospel to China's most remote provinces, ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson discovers that she has been singled out for a divine calling of her own.

Etta is quick to share the news with her dorm mates, and soon even Big Bum Eileen is enlisted in the Prophetess Club, which busies
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, china
I really enjoyed this. It’s a good, solid story following the childhood of Etta, the daughter of missionaries to China, from the time that she is sent away to boarding school and through the Japanese invasion of China in the Second World War. As someone who grew up on boarding school stories this was a very different world - it’s not a particularly cruel one, but the effects of the separation of young people from their parents is seen much more clearly, especially as the war further prolongs the ...more
Alexis O
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2017
An interesting setting for the story, a missionary school in China during WWII. Mackenzie is very good at making the voice of a child heard. There was the light innocence and tenderness of childhood at the start of the book and all the silly struggles that young girls have with one another but as the book and time went by, it became darker. The reader and Etta gain a fuller, richer view of what the world is. You see this girl grow up, what she becomes through her own misguided actions and throug ...more
Lizzie Bruce
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent read. Explores lives of students and teachers at a mountaintop missionary school in China during WWII. Great observation of characters' interactions, motivations and inner musings. Poetic descriptions. A delicate rendering of the charm of innocent existence continuing, same as it ever was, with real and present danger looming from just below the cloud forests. Quite a shock when disruption hits so fully, preempted by a couple of sad and shocking occurrences at the school it ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.8 stars (now even half stars aren't enough for me)

This was beautifully written, with a captivating narrator and interesting themes and questions about family and motherhood, Christianity, the nature of 'home' and maturing from child to womanhood... But no actual, discernible plot. Which I am mostly prepared to forgive, because it was a lovely read. I particularly loved Lushan and how beautiful and magical it seemed, and then the looming threat of the Japanese.

But I think I may be developing a
Dec 31, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite enjoyed this

Interesting read. Hard to understand the missionaries who sent their children off to boarding school so that they could continue their missionary and the book makes no attempt to explain that. Instead it's the story of a girl growing up away from her parents and of her eventual return to England (and her parents) following the communists assuming power in China. Although it covers the period of the Japanese invasion and her internment in a pow camp it does not go into huge deta
The Book Grocer
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Purchase In aLand of Paper Gods here for just $8!

It is 1941, and war has come to China. For ten-year-old Etta, chafing against the strict regime in her boarding school on remote, misty Lushan, this means little. But change is creeping closer, and Etta is waiting for a sign... Well written. A fascinating and an intelligent but easy read.

Steph - The Book Grocer
Leong Chin Yee
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I cannot remember why I got this book. It is not an exciting book like others that I read that made me want to finish it quickly; I took time to read and journey with Etta, as if I was reading her journal and trying to relive her experiences as a missionary kid in Lushan and then as a war intern. Her separation from her parents did bring an ache to my heart as I understand the difficulties of being away from home and at that time when communication was hard.
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Probably 2.5 stars, actually. This book began really well and I was chuckling to myself... but then the amusement faded and I became quite disenchanted with it. The characters didn't follow through, nor did the situations. I found it difficult to follow the physical locations also and then the years just disappeared.
Dylan Rossi
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
If I could do 3.5 I would as there's obviously been a ton of effort into the book. It just took a really, really long time to get into the book. It did get exciting towards the end though for sure, but it never peaked if you get me.
Jess Bolam
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
this book simply broke my heart.
Maria Fillary
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in China WW2. British missionary children living in a missionary school & the impact of the war. ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Begins very slow- took months to read part 1 and 2 but part 3 was well written and made it worthwhile
A heartbreaking story set in a time & place I was completely unfamiliar with. Something about it didn't completely capture me but it was a solidly good 3 Star read. ...more
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