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The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures…
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The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer… (2005)

by Vicki Constantine Croke

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Lady and the Panda tells the story of Ruth Harkness and the pandas she captured in China in the mid 1930s. Harkness was the first person to bring a live panda to the US. Su-Lin was a young cub at the time, and Ruth bottle fed him and carried him around in a basket to press conferences and various social engagements, before he settled into his zoo home in Chicago. I found details like this fun and endearing and was fascinated by this very unexpected explorer's travails. I was less engaged in details about China's history and architecture. I recommend this to anyone interested in this period of China's history, adventurous travel, and/or conservation issues. ( )
1 vote ChickLitFan | Mar 11, 2011 |
Too much lady, not enough panda. ( )
1 vote theanalogdivide | Dec 1, 2009 |
Too much lady, not enough panda. ( )
  theanalogdivide | Dec 1, 2009 |
Too much lady, not enough panda. ( )
  theanalogdivide | Dec 1, 2009 |
(#37 in the 2009 book challenge)

The story of Ruth Harkness, the American woman who went to China in the 1930s to finish up her late husband's plan to capture a live panda. My gosh, the world is so unfair because I will never have a dinosaur, I will never have a pygmy elephant, and I will never have a baby panda. It is madness how cute her baby pandas were.
http://www.cryptomundo.com/wp-content/uploads/su_linyoung.JPG
http://www.cryptomundo.com/wp-content/uploads/harknesssu-lin.jpg
http://www.pandabaer.info/wp-content/gallery/sonstige/ruth_harkness.jpg

Harkness's story is genuinely interesting - she was a socialite and a fashionista and perfectly willing to rough it in the wilds of China to snatch a baby panda and the essentially smuggle it out of China. To Croke's credit, she does a decent job of acknowledging the multitude of problems with this scenario without letting it bog down the adventuresome parts of the story. And Harkness herself eventually (well, probably after her first panda ended up as a Field Museum exhibit rather than a resident of the Chicago Zoo) came to a lot of these conclusions and even ended up releasing her final panda back into the wild.

One thing that did crack me up is that the author seemed to bend over backwards to explain the DEEP, SPIRITUAL bond Harkness formed with her Chinese guide, Quentin Young. You really don't have to explain much after seeing his picture, he's CRAZY HOT and probably had to beat off the ladies with a stick. "Deep and spiritual" -- is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Grade: A-
Recommended: To fans of animals, people interested in China -- it's a great snapshot of expat life in China in the 1930s. ( )
  delphica | Jun 28, 2009 |
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Epigraph
China is a country of unforgettable color, and often, quite unbidden come vivid pictures to my mind - - sometimes it is the golden roofs of the Imperial City in Peking, or again it is the yellow corn on the flat-roofed little stone houses in the country of the Tibetan border land.
- - Ruth Harkness
Dedication
FOR MY SISTER, LINDA BIANDO
First words
It was a bitter winter night, February 19, 1936, and on the outskirts of Shanghai, far from the neon and the wailing jazz, a thirty-four-year-old William Harvest Harkness, Jr. lay in a private hospital, blood-stiffened silk sutures tracking across his pale abdomen. He was dying and alone in his agony.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375759700, Paperback)

Here is the astonishing true story of Ruth Harkness, the Manhattan bohemian socialite who, against all but impossible odds, trekked to Tibet in 1936 to capture the most mysterious animal of the day: a bear that had for countless centuries lived in secret in the labyrinth of lonely cold mountains. In The Lady and the Panda, Vicki Constantine Croke gives us the remarkable account of Ruth Harkness and her extraordinary journey, and restores Harkness to her rightful place along with Sacajawea, Nellie Bly, and Amelia Earhart as one of the great woman adventurers of all time.

Ruth was the toast of 1930s New York, a dress designer newly married to a wealthy adventurer, Bill Harkness. Just weeks after their wedding, however, Bill decamped for China in hopes of becoming the first Westerner to capture a giant panda–an expedition on which many had embarked and failed miserably. Bill was also to fail in his quest, dying horribly alone in China and leaving his widow heartbroken and adrift. And so Ruth made the fateful decision to adopt her husband’s dream as her own and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

It was not easy. Indeed, everything was against Ruth Harkness. In decadent Shanghai, the exclusive fraternity of white male explorers patronized her, scorned her, and joked about her softness, her lack of experience and money. But Ruth ignored them, organizing, outfitting, and leading a bare-bones campaign into the majestic but treacherous hinterlands where China borders Tibet. As her partner she chose Quentin Young, a twenty-two-year-old Chinese explorer as unconventional as she was, who would join her in a romance as torrid as it was taboo.

Traveling across some of the toughest terrain in the world–nearly impenetrable bamboo forests, slick and perilous mountain slopes, and boulder-strewn passages–the team raced against a traitorous rival, and was constantly threatened by hordes of bandits and hostile natives. The voyage took months to complete and cost Ruth everything she had. But when, almost miraculously, she returned from her journey with a baby panda named Su Lin in her arms, the story became an international sensation and made the front pages of newspapers around the world. No animal in history had gotten such attention. And Ruth Harkness became a hero.

Drawing extensively on American and Chinese sources, including diaries, scores of interviews, and previously unseen intimate letters from Ruth Harkness, Vicki Constantine Croke has fashioned a captivating and richly textured narrative about a woman ahead of her time. Part Myrna Loy, part Jane Goodall, by turns wisecracking and poetic, practical and spiritual, Ruth Harkness is a trailblazing figure. And her story makes for an unforgettable, deeply moving adventure.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:37 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Ruth Harkness was a Manhattan socialite, newly married to a wealthy adventurer. Weeks after their wedding, he decamped for China in hopes of becoming the first Westerner to capture the most mysterious animal of the day, a giant panda--an expedition on which many had failed miserably. Bill was also to fail, dying alone in China and leaving his widow adrift. In 1936, Ruth adopted her husband's dream as her own. In decadent Shanghai, white male explorers scorned her, so she chose as her partner a 22-year-old Chinese explorer as unconventional as she was, who would join her in a romance as torrid as it was taboo. Traveling across some of the toughest terrain in the world, where China borders Tibet, they raced against a traitorous rival, and were threatened by hordes of bandits and hostile natives. The voyage cost Ruth everything she had, but when she returned with a baby panda, the story became an international sensation. No animal in history had gotten such attention.--From publisher description.… (more)

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