Timothy Hallinan's Reviews > Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory

Country Driving by Peter Hessler
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Aug 01, 2010

really liked it
Read in August, 2010

Peter Hessler has been writing wonderful pieces on China for the New Yorker for years and also wrote two books I admire, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present. His newest begins with an urge to drive the length of the Great Wall and turns into an extended meditation on the small rural towns that are emptying as their young people flood toward the special economic zones to take factory jobs. The second part of the book describes his years living part-time in just such a town, and it's endearing, funny, and sad all at the same time. And the third section, in many ways the best, reveals the slapdash, even haphazard nature of the new Chinese revolution: in a brand-new economic zone called Lixui, two semi-clueless entrepreneurs set up a factory to make bra rings, powered by a complicated industrial machine that's BUILT BY HAND AND BY MEMORY by a man who worked on a "real" one previously. When they start hiring, a whole new cast of characters comes in -- people who have abandoned their lives to begin with nothing in hope of a better life.

This could be read in tandem with Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie Chang (who is married to Hessler), which is the best book I've read in years on modern China. These are both terrific reads.
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message 1: by Meghan (new)

Meghan I've been on the fence as to whether or not I should read this. Thanks for your review (as now I will be getting the book).


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