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Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  132 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside tells the story of two Americans living and teaching in rural China. The first, Thomas, is an entitled deadbeat, content to pass the rest of his days in Asia skating by on the fact that he's white, while the second, a recent college graduate named Daniel, is an idealist at heart. Over the course of the novel, these two charac ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Inkshares
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, novels
Whether or not one would like this novel about English teachers in rural China, has much to do with whether one has been an English teacher in China. And also how long one has been in China...

The whole expat-in-Asia first novel has become a bit of a cottage industry genre unto itself. I am perhaps guilty of this cliche as well, but let's not get into my own perspective and I'll try to be as broadly objective as I can.

That's just the thing though, this "genre" is by its nature subjective. Basic
Arthur Meursault
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Quincy Carroll is an American who taught English in China and who recently published his first novel: Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside (which for the rest of this book review I am going to refer to simply as “Mountains“). The title refers to a type of punishment during the Cultural Revolution when bourgeois urban youth were sent away from their comfortable city homes and forced to live amongst the peasants out in the countryside. China, indeed, has many hells. However in Mountains ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book could be called the beauty of idealism or the death of it. The only knowledge I have about China has come from literature and my Uncle (professor of anthropology who sadly passed away recently) who traveled there. The knowledge I have of teaching in foreign countries also came from him and another Uncle- stories galore about culture clashes. My own experience, from having lived in Japan- because western culture sometimes seems alien by comparison, I can well relate to misunderstandings ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. While I appreciated the honesty and what I suspect is a very realistic portrayal of life in rural China, to be honest I found this book very depressing and somewhat lacking in depth. I felt that the characters were realistic, but such sad, sad losers, struggling with their demons and unable to take steps to move on. At one point in my reading I debated giving up, but did persevere and am glad that I finished it. Certainly not a feel-good book, that's for sure. ...more
Cassandra (Thebookishcrypt)
*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review*

This is Quincy's debut novel and I am so glad I got the chance to read it! I thought I was going to hit some challenged along the way since this is different than what I usually read but I am so glad that didn't happen. In the contrary, once I cracked ope the spine, I couldn't put it down.
Quincy's writing is extremely easy to follow and visualize. I ended up reading this in one sitting because of it. I felt myself being easily transported to a count
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Based on the author’s own experience, this is the story of Thomas and Daniel, teachers of English in China. With very different characters and outlooks, the tension between them drives the narrative, and their perspectives on teaching, their Chinese students and life in China all combine to make this an original and compelling drama. Cynical Thomas is in his 60s, disillusioned and almost constantly drunk. Idealistic Daniel, enthusiastic and responsible, popular with his students, wants to do his ...more
Lauren Bellhouse
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly well written book, and a must-read for anyone who loves travel, Southeast Asia, and/or good literature. Of particular note are the powerful descriptions of China as well as the range of characters that Carroll introduces throughout the book. It was interesting to recognize aspects of people I've met while living abroad, and even parts of myself, in these characters. ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Up To The Mountains and Down To The Countryside is one of the more challenging yet fulfilling books I’ve read in recent years. It deals with a world far removed from my own. That said, the thoughts and struggles expressed are universal, enabling me to not only sympathize, but relate. I highly recommend this read.
Laura Harrison
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly well written and engaging. This isn't my usual genre but I was captivated by the descriptions and events. I sure know a heck of a lot more about China after reading this book. ...more
John R
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed it. A lot of it for me was that it seemed to be a book written just for me, as a young American male who went abroad to teach and had that be a big part of who I ended up being. As such, I related so much to what the author described and showed in the book. It had a very lived-in feel for me, it really did. A lot of the protagonist's experience traveling or meeting people or, like holidays and holiday plans (just getting accustomed to a the holiday patterns of a different place) ...more
Capucine Gros
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful account and reflection on the rather universal process of uprooting oneself to a different place, while simultaneously painting an honest and touching portrait of rural China, full of lovely & ingenious little details. A good reminder of the beautiful lessons of getting comfortable being uncomfortable + food for thought about what we search for deep down when we travel... Strongly recommended read overall!
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this in one go fittingly on a plane ride - really interesting to read this very thoughtful (albeit sobering) account of life traveling to teach abroad in China.
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not completely sure how I feel about this book yet; I think it's the kind of book you have to talk through with someone else. I enjoyed reading it, and it created a very realistic albeit sometimes depressing depiction of life in a foreign country. However, it left me with a sort of unfulfilled feeling--in part due to the malaise echoed in one of the main characters, and partly from the vague ending. I'm not convinced this wasn't the author's intention.

Although I mostly appreciate the pensive
Travis Lee
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside is the story of two outsiders. Daniel is a young ESL teacher who tries to ingratiate himself with China. He has great Mandarin, understands the culture and takes his job seriously.

Thomas has recently arrived from a kindergarten in Changsha, where it’s implied that his departure was not by choice. Daniel gets him signed on at the last minute, and Thomas is not the least bit grateful. Quite the opposite: he believes it is the school’s duty to hire hi
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
**I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways**

Let me just get this out of the way now - this book has no quotation marks. None. It's very hard to decipher when two people are having a dialogue, who is speaking, and even if they are saying something aloud or in their head. I had an internal debate on whether the author was trying to make a point, if it was for artistic purposes, if the editor charged more for quotation marks, etc. then decided no reason was good enough. It annoyed
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely well written book. It presents the reader with a real portrait of a young man (Daniel) who is struggling to find his purpose and direction in life set amidst the very well depicted (but not flattering) backdrop of China. The novel's plot introduces us to drifting expats, eager Chinese students, the education system, and constant compare of having escaped "life back home".

The book's plot and characters help illustrate the continuing struggle between Daniel's idealism and indi
Carol Oliveira
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
The novel tells the story of Daniel and Thomas, who are both foreigners living in a small town in China. Despite their similar circumstances the two of them couldn’t be more different. While Daniel lives his life trying to embrace everything around him, Thomas lives as if he’s making the world a favor just by existing. UTTMADTTC is told by both their POV’s.

I’m an International Relations student and I am fascinated by other cultures. I was born and raised in a big city in Brazil, but I had the op
Ian R
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside" is an entertaining read from beginning to end. The book is a modern coming-of-age story about Daniel, a proud, idealistic young man teaching English in a small Chinese village. His antagonist is another English teacher at the small school, a selfish older man who has not invested the energy to learn much Chinese, or much about China, despite living there for several years. The clash of their personalities and the relentless attention of a goody-t ...more
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Up to the Mountains is a meaningful story that illuminates expat influences in modern, rural China, while dealing with the essential questions that plague humanity. Carroll's protagonist, a highly relatable and complex character named Daniel, is in search of his place in the world. Ultimately, through introspection and interactions with supporting characters, Daniel ascends the self-actualization pyramid to become a more mature and globally conscious individual.

In short, as a first effort, Up to
Kirk Weikart
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
While the story line was enjoyable, I never got into rhythm with the book. The pace of the book seemed a bit inconsistent, with great devotion given to certain days and then large (or even unknown) gaps of time seeming to pass. I also was disappointed that quotation marks were not used to clarify when a character was speaking aloud. It seemed as though the author had a clear beginning and end, and he developed the story well for awhile, but then suddenly the book (and school year) were over. To ...more
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
A captivating story of two expats living and teaching in rural China. Daniel: young and idealistic, Thomas: Older, set in his ways, and almost always intoxicated. The friction created by their contrasting personalities makes for intense and engaging conflict throughout the novel. Carroll's vivid imagery of rural China provides the perfect backdrop for the incompatible Daniel and Thomas. The cultural challenges that both Americans face in rural China adds a layer of complexity that enriches the s ...more
Glenda Manzi
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Quincy Carroll’s mastery of evocative storytelling pulled me to rural China and made this a
book I couldn’t stop reading.
I became so involved with the intricately drawn characters that as their lives collided I couldn’t
stop turning the pages to see what would happen next.
The characters are complex like the naive, idealistic young Chinese student, Bella, who is calculating in her own way.
There is also a complexity to the pace of the novel which unfolds in a calm, deliberate manner while leaving th
Matthew Niles
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As someone with no background in teaching or experience traveling in Asia I was concerned that it might be difficult to really get invested in this story. I could not have been more wrong. Carroll's masterful development of complex and engrossing characters set against his vivid descriptions of the countryside made this book impossible for me to put down. I can't remember the last book that I have read so voraciously or that has transported me so completely to another world. Carroll's meticulous ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside: A Novel by Quincy Carroll focuses on Thomas and Daniel, two American teachers living in China. The book is a fascinating character study, and it also taught me about different aspects of Chinese culture. The writing seemed very realistic, as if the characters were people I might observe in real life. I like how the readers are able to see both Thomas and Daniel’s perspectives; because the two men are polar opposites, it creates an interesting dyna ...more
Steven Parker
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Powerful debut novel that truly captures the experience of being a foreign teacher in rural China. The story, as told through the eyes of 2 very different characters: an idealist and a cynic, digs into a duality of raw human emotions that many foreign teachers experience but struggle to express. Like Quincy, I was a foreign teacher in rural China, and this book hit very close to home. I found myself reliving experiences and facing feelings that I'd buried deep down. But Quincy also threw in a nu ...more
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As someone who had worked and lived abroad, I found many parallels to my own experiences in this book. The contrast of a younger American's mindset with the realities of a rural developing country is personified in the two main characters in this novel. It does a great job developing these two characters, the young idealist and older realist, and through them exploring the many facets of this conflict as it plays out in rural China.

Carroll is clearly well read and in this book we see his early
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside is an absolute must-read for anyone who has ever even considered traveling abroad. This novel explores the perspectives of two American men living in the same small Chinese town for seemingly two very different reasons. Allow Carroll to guide you through Ningyuan, as his vivid writing makes you feel as if you are speeding through the hills on the back of Daniel's motorcycle or sampling your first taste of Bella's blood duck. A book guaranteed to ma ...more
Cal Lee
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china, asian-american
This debut novel is a fresh piece of fiction to the English-language China literature. The story skips the China 101 lessons that many China books have, and its use of untranslated pinyin dialogue results in a target audience of China expats and former China expats. Anyone from this base will likely find familiarity with many of the characters and events. The book will read very differently to a non-China person but will serve as a fascinating and intriguing glimpse into a very specific and inte ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
#UpMdownC is a great book about not only the nuances and surprises of being an ex-pat in China, but about the often volatile road to self-discovery, as well. Carroll, though his expressive and linguistically pictorial writing style, walks you through Daniel's experiences and thought processes, as he embarks upon a somewhat idealistic journey to Ningyuan, only to ultimately pieces of that which he had been looking to escape. It is well written, fulfilling, and, more than anything, a great renditi ...more
Peter Welch
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a real page-turner. The complex dynamics between the well-wrought central characters keep you engrossed from beginning to end. As a teacher - but someone who has never taught abroad - I was fascinated to learn more about the relationships between American teachers and Chinese students and the different ways in which ambivalence seeps into these relationships from both ends. Quincy Carroll is a keen observer of human nature, and it is this eye for detail that makes Up to the Mountain ...more
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Quincy Carroll is the author of Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside. He is currently writing his second book.

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