Around the World in 80 Books discussion

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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new)

Diane  | 12972 comments Post reviews here for books set anywhere in Central Asia, East Asia, or Southeast Asia.


message 2: by Jennifer (last edited Aug 30, 2016 04:18AM) (new)

Jennifer S. Alderson (jennifesalderson) | 138 comments Here's my 4 star review of Bangkok Haunts:
I felt like I was in Bangkok again, while reading this book. It's a gritty world Detective Sonchai (main character) is wrapped up in, especially when has to find out who sent him a snuff film featuring his former lover, and why. A disturbing topic but handled masterfully; the reader is spared gory details and Sonchai's emotional pain comes through loud and clear. A well written detective story that will transport you to Thailand. Perfect for lovers of crime and travel fiction.

[[read a while ago, only posted the review yesterday]]


message 3: by Jennifer (last edited Aug 30, 2016 04:19AM) (new)

Jennifer S. Alderson (jennifesalderson) | 138 comments Here's my 4 star review of One Last Kill:
John Rain is a true bad ass. Though I'm not usually into 'super macho men' characters, this series kept me interested because John Rain is also a complicated man whose emotions interefere with his work as a hitman, at least in One Last Kill. Fast paced, shoot-em-up with lots of betrayal and suspence. I loved following Rain through the Phillipines, Malyasia and Thailand; the author has clearly spent a lot of time in Asia. The film version was truly horrible -- anyone who watched it should read the book instead.
[[read a while ago, only posted the review yesterday]]


message 4: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer S. Alderson (jennifesalderson) | 138 comments Here's my 5 star review of The Disobedient Wife (read and reviewed in October 2016):
The Disobedient Wife is one of the most powerful, compelling books I’ve read in a long time. I feel as if I’ve been to Tajikistan and gotten to know the two strong women driving this novel as they try to find their place in the world. Nargis is a lower class Tajik woman living in the slums of Dushanbe and Harriet is a pampered expatriate residing in a gated suburban community.

The author’s descriptions of people, place, culture and events are exquisite and captivating, yet sometimes frustratingly depressing. The contrast between the well-manicured, primarily expat neighborhoods and their crumbling inner city counterparts are continuously emphasized, as are the hardships of living with continual food and power shortages, post-communist economic depression, a rise in domestic violence, the mafia-controlled heroin trade and a corrupt government.

Though I’ve never been to Tajikistan, the author’s descriptions of Dushanbe are reminiscent of the rotting Communist-era apartment buildings, neglected infrastructure, and somber tree-less inner city squares I’ve seen in poorer parts of Russia, China and Nepal.

Nargis, maid and nanny to Harriet’s children, is the character whom most readers will care the most about. Despite an abusive husband and disapproving community, she does all she can to provide for her children and instill them with hope. She is also the one who reminds us to appreciate the hidden beauty of a place and the small successes in life, and celebrate them. I’ve met so many Nargis’s on my travels, wonderfully strong women trapped within the confines of their culture, unable to choose their own path without risking being shunned by their family, friends and community. Her story ends perhaps too well in comparison to other local characters in the book, but as a reader I’m grateful; I needed her story to end on a positive note.

Harriet is the embodiment of the well-meaning expat/volunteer whose inability to actually affect change within her surroundings leaves her feeling useless and incompetent. Though she desperately wants to help local Tajik women, she unwittingly sees them as improvement projects and evaluates their presumed needs and desires through Western eyes, unable to completely understand the pressures placed upon them by their culture and community’s expectations. In the end, the roles are reversed and she is the one drawing strength from Nargis.

I truly cared what happened to these women, especially Nargis, and was almost sad to see their stories end.

For me, this beautiful, heartbreaking novel encapsulates how it feels to be an expatriate, from the initial joy and delight in learning about a new land and culture to the inevitable heartache of having – no, wanting – to move on, purposefully allowing friendships and connections to die off. “As time passes, I feel more reluctant to call. I would rather forget the pain of it all, keep her as a fading memory.” I often felt as if I was reading a soulmate’s description of how it feels to move on to a new destination after building up a life in a foreign country: we say goodbye while wondering what, if any, lasting impact we’ve had on our temporary homes. “All traces will be erased until the Dutch tulips I laid last September rise above the earth to bloom in April and pronounce that I really was there. The language, learned and badly spoken, is already fading from my dreams…”

The author also understands how long-term travel can change your very being, instilling a sort of restlessness that makes it difficult to settle down anywhere. “We belong to a stateless state, an international diaspora, cut off from our origins by the changes that have taken place in our absence as much as by the relentlessly dull sameness of it all when we return.” Reflections such as these are scattered throughout Harriet’s journal entries, deftly exposing the primarily reason many expats find it so hard to go back ‘home’.

Harriet’s thoughts about expat life stirred up so many memories for me of people left behind and as well as adventures past. It made me wish I could go back – even for a moment – to all of the places I’ve been in this crazy world and just say hello to the people I once knew there and remind them that I’m still around and do think of them once in a while. In particular, the last chapter of this book conjured up a rush of nostalgia and longing I’ve never before felt when reading fiction – quite an achievement!

Ultimately, this is an uplifting, poignant story of hope and understanding that I highly recommend to anyone, expat or not.


message 5: by Alice (new)

Alice Poon (alice_poon) Here's the link to my "Asia-themed" bookshelf. For my reviews, just click on "view":-

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list...


message 6: by Yolanda (last edited Feb 01, 2017 11:47AM) (new)

Yolanda (yolanda_areid) | 6 comments My most recent blog post is on memoirs about China. Each book features beautiful writing by a woman who lived and loved in China.

Check out my blog post at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show....

Porridge & Cucu My Childhood by Yolanda A. Reid


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