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Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
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Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

3.9 61
by Susan Jane Gilman
 

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They were young, brilliant, and bold. They set out to conquer the world. But the world had other plans for them.

Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's new memoir is a hilarious and harrowing journey, a modern heart of darkness filled with Communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes.

In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire

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Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
An unusual approach to a travel story. I thought this would be an easy read chronicling the adventures of two novice travelers through China; at the time a country newly opened to outside travel. Instead I got that AND a story of one traveler's descent into mental illness. Now this would be trouble for an experienced traveler, let alone a newbie. Then add to it the language difficulty, the new openness of China to westerners (and the Chinese peoples fascination with these 'odd' characters), and the mysterious workings of the Chinese government. Two young women, recent Brown graduates, meet at an IHOP and plan to forestall the inevitable: jobs, marriage and family, in short the entrance to the 'real world'. The plan is to spend a year traveling around the world, to see the places few travelers (and fewer women travelers) have ever been. No four star hotels or western comforts allowed. First to Hong Kong, they almost immediately find themselves truly alone in the world, and almost totally unprepared for the challenges ahead. They depend on friends they meet and realize how truly pampered they lives have been compared to what lies ahead. All they can depend on is each other (through homesickness, illness, and the myriad daily problems of travel in a strange land). The closeness they feel is replaced by the knowledge of how very little they know about each other. When one member begins to show signs of the pressure; physical illness (and a trip to the Chinese hospital), moodiness and sudden need to 'be alone' seem to be part of the simple ups and downs of life. Or are they? With a great sense of humor, and a quirky narrative style Susan Gilman invites us along on this amazing journey of self discovery. There are no 'heroes'. There are no 'villains'. Just two young people starting on life's journey. I'm glad I was able to take the trip! (
mkpetersonMP More than 1 year ago
This book is so whip-smart funny, adventurous, insightful and readable, I'm shocked it didn't ride the best-seller lists for weeks. I'm on my second read and know what's going to happen, but I'm still riding the thrill.
ADH65 More than 1 year ago
Early in Susan Jane Gilman's memoir of her ill-fated 1986 trip to China, standing in a filthy Shanghai toilet, Gilman declares to her traveling companion, "We are two young, brilliant Ivy League graduates. If we can't use a public bathroom in the People's Republic of China, who the hell can?" Sadly, this episode is all too typical of Gilman's experiences in China. To be fair, Gilman recounts her story through the eyes of herself as a young, naive college graduate. But I've certainly met more perceptive and sympathetic twenty-year-olds. I groaned at the younger Gilman's cultural observations of life in China, the limits of her worldview defined, apparently, by the boundaries of New York City-all this from an aspiring young writer and an honors graduate of Brown University. (And Gilman is positively eager to discuss her education and ascension from an upbringing she unselfconsciously describes as 'underprivileged'.) I picked up this book after reading some positive reviews-there's a glowing blurb from Alexandra Fuller on the back cover-but I can only assume that the reviewers were reading an entirely different book. In the introduction, Gilman attests to the authenticity of her story, but what follows is an endless series of thin, clichéd characterizations and petty melodramas, saccharine denouements. And, thoughtfully, Gilman provides all of her non-American characters with ridiculous accents. Germans include "yah" in every sentence, Australians "oi", and the Chinese never seem to get those R's or L's right. Gilman wrote this book over twenty years after the events it portrays, but is this really the best she could come up with? Is it possible to travel 8000 miles around the world and experience nothing much more unique or authentic than could be had from an armchair perusal of Lonely Planet's guide to China? Postscript: If you're looking for a thoughtful and beautifully written travel memoir, also authored by a young college grad in China, please instead consider Peter Hessler's "River Town". For your hard-earned $20, I guarantee this book is a more worthy selection.
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