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River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by…

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001)

by Peter Hessler

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Here's a smattering of what I enjoyed about this book: I learned a great deal about China and the people outside of the big cities; it was peppered with humor, occasionally laugh out loud type; the author has great heart and insight, and is highly observant; it's about real people; the writing is super for this type of book. I'm already telling others about this book.

The author went to China to teach English and Literature with the Peace Corps and was sited in a small river town on the Yangtze River, across from a larger town. He learned way more than the language, which is difficult to learn, at best. The reader learns many things with him. He traveled and talked to people wherever he went, and was subjected to crowds around him and taunts everywhere he went because this part of China doesn't see foreigners. It's a delightful read in all respects.

( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
P. Corps workers 2 yrs in China
Very Observant + trying to teach, learn + be open all at once. Building — Nature's History get in each other's way.

In the heart of China's Sichuan province lies the small city of Fuling. Surrounded by the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, Fuling has long been a place of continuity, far from the bustling political centers of Beijing and Shanghai. But now Fuling is heading down a new path, and gradually, along with scores of other towns in this vast and ever-evolving country, it is becoming a place of change and vitality, tension and reform, disruption and growth. As the people of Fuling hold on to the China they know, they are also opening up and struggling to adapt to a world in which their fate is uncertain.
  christinejoseph | Sep 28, 2016 |
An interesting account of two years that the author spent teaching English literature in China. ( )
  cazfrancis | Jan 16, 2016 |
Enjoyable, well written, great descriptions of people, places and history ( )
  fvg | Nov 4, 2015 |
After this book, I am very, very jealous of Peter Hessler, as I would be of anyone who could write better in his twenties than I can in my 40s. The first of his books about China, this doesn't have as wide a scope as "Country Driving", as it covers only two years and is mostly focused on the southwestern Chinese town where he taught. But his observations are just as insightful, sympathizing with the townspeople and his earnest, hard-working students but critiquing the Communist system and its ubiquitous propaganda (as well as the occasional jerk who attacks him verbally or physically for being a waiguoren). Fortunately there is quite a bit of humor too -- not as much as Marc Salzman's "Iron and Silk," but still entertaining. ( )
  bostonian71 | Sep 22, 2015 |
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for my parents
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I came to Fuling on the slow boat downstream from Chongqing.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060855029, Paperback)

In 1996, 26-year-old Peter Hessler arrived in Fuling, a town on China's Yangtze River, to begin a two-year Peace Corps stint as a teacher at the local college. Along with fellow teacher Adam Meier, the two are the first foreigners to be in this part of the Sichuan province for 50 years. Expecting a calm couple of years, Hessler at first does not realize the social, cultural, and personal implications of being thrust into a such radically different society. In River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, Hessler tells of his experience with the citizens of Fuling, the political and historical climate, and the feel of the city itself.

"Few passengers disembark at Fuling ... and so Fuling appears like a break in a dream--the quiet river, the cabins full of travelers drifting off to sleep, the lights of the city rising from the blackness of the Yangtze," says Hessler. A poor city by Chinese standards, the students at the college are mainly from small villages and are considered very lucky to be continuing their education. As an English teacher, Hessler is delighted with his students' fresh reactions to classic literature. One student says of Hamlet, "I don't admire him and I dislike him. I think he is too sensitive and conservative and selfish." Hessler marvels,

You couldn't have said something like that at Oxford. You couldn't simply say: I don't like Hamlet because I think he's a lousy person. Everything had to be more clever than that ... you had to dismantle it ... not just the play itself but everything that had ever been written about it.
Over the course of two years, Hessler and Meier learn more they ever guessed about the lives, dreams, and expectations of the Fuling people.

Hessler's writing is lovely. His observations are evocative, insightful, and often poignant--and just as often, funny. It's a pleasure to read of his (mis)adventures. Hessler returned to the U.S. with a new perspective on modern China and its people. After reading River Town, you'll have one, too. --Dana Van Nest

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:26 -0400)

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