Friday, March 5, 2010

Emily Parker reviews COUNTRY DRIVING by Peter Hessler in The New Republic

"Country Driving depicts China’s development as determined and unsentimental. People cast aside factories, villages, and even families in their pursuit of the new. The only vaguely nostalgic character is Hessler himself, who occasionally marvels at the emptiness around him. “There was something poignant about driving through the dying villages,” Hessler writes of his journey along the Great Wall. “These were the last glimpses–the end of small towns and rural childhoods . . . [a]nd rural traditions of honesty and trust wouldn’t survive the shift to city life.”


This is one of the rare moments when Hessler’s emotions bleed into the writing. He mostly offers anthropological observations and invites readers to draw their own conclusions. His attention to detail is impressive, and certain passages resemble photographs that capture a fleeting moment in time. China has not always been so effective at historical preservation, so future generations of Chinese may thank Hessler for his efforts."

-------------------

MostlyFiction also reviews the book, saying "Armed with the informed outsider’s ability to see the larger picture, Hessler engages the reader with his own affection and fascination for an ancient culture in overdrive. Endlessly curious, fluent in the language, willing to go anywhere, and talk to anyone, his graceful prose carries us along, into the mountains, the dusty deserts, the mud-walled village huts and concrete factories, but most of all into the lives of the people he meets.


Humorous, affecting and intelligent, Hessler’s latest should captivate anyone with an inkling of interest in China."