Andrew Martin's Reviews > River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

River Town by Peter Hessler
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's review
Oct 26, 2011

really liked it
Read from October 26 to 31, 2011

chased down hessler's china books after reading the ridiculously good new yorker piece about the druggist in colorado:

more than anything what i appreciated about this book is that it reads as fundamentally honest. sometimes hessler is his better self; at others he's irritated and judgmental as he adjusts to the country. he doesn't sugarcoat his perceptions or cast his behavior as particularly heroic. over time, he revisits opinions.

reading a mid-90s narrative in 2011 adds another layer to the book, as well. hessler is in sichuan/szechuan, upstream from the three gorges, and ends up documenting a slice of chinese life that was uprooted after the reservoir filled, and he's teaching students who are only a year or two away from leaving central china to coastal areas. the notion that any single travel narrative could capture anything essential about a country as large as china is silly, but hessler's book ends up catching a slice of an enormously important story.
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