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1 Barrett, Andrea THE MIDDLE KINGDOM
Flamingo 2001 0007102887 / 9780007102884 Paperback Very Good 
A crisp clean softcover, no markings throughout: Andrea Barrett is best known for her novel The Voyage of The Narwhal and a collection of short stories, Ship Fever. In both these books scientific dis covery, history and the natural world are wonderful backdrops to intimate, personal dramas. The Middle Kingdom is an earlier work but the same keen se nse of curiosity about life and the way to live it glimmers on the page. The novel opens in the recent past, in Tiananmen Square. There is smoke, gu nfire and confusion, a sense of history being destroyed and re-made into so mething else. In the midst of this historical shattering, is a character st udy of an American woman teaching natural history in a Chinese laboratory. Grace Hoffmeier's story starts off "stunted and stilted, common and sad", b ut by the end of the novel she has found the "middle way--not too much look ing back. Not too much dreaming ahead". Grace's is an American tale, one of stifling family conflicts; and two bad marriages that look like escape routes, but are just another way of being trapped. Grace overeats to compensate for all her mistakes, to swaddle her desires, to stop herself thinking: "that was how I existed then: push, shut, close, seal, deny, forget". But on a trip to China, with her husband Walter, a meeting at a scientific conference forces her to reassesses her past and take control of her future. Andrea Barrett's prose is lyrical and sure, blending fact with fiction in an elegant meditation on personal freedom and political repression. Grace's story is shadowed by real events in China, giving her voyage of discovery an extraordinary vividness and. 
Price: 500.00 JPY
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