Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory

Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory

3.7 56
by Peter Hessler
     
 

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“Hessler has a marvelous sense of the intonations and gestures that give life to the moment.” —The New York Times Book Review

From Peter Hessler, the New York Times bestselling author of Oracle Bones and River Town, comes Country Driving, the third and final book in his award-winning China

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Overview

“Hessler has a marvelous sense of the intonations and gestures that give life to the moment.” —The New York Times Book Review

From Peter Hessler, the New York Times bestselling author of Oracle Bones and River Town, comes Country Driving, the third and final book in his award-winning China trilogy. Country Driving addresses the human side of the economic revolution in China, focusing on economics and development, and shows how the auto boom helps China shift from rural to urban, from farming to business.

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
…an absolutely terrific book, at once highly entertaining (his accounts of the driver's test and of how the Chinese act on the road are often hilarious) and deeply instructive, as he paints a portrait of a country in the midst of change so widespread and profound that it can scarcely be grasped…Hessler clearly came to love China in the more than a decade he spent there, and he was endlessly surprised, amused and delighted by it. He has a highly developed taste for oddness, incongruity and just plain weirdness, all of which he describes with not a scintilla of condescension. Country Driving is a wonderful book about China that also happens to be a terrific book about the human race.
—The Washington Post
Dwight Garner
The story of this emerging China has been told before, of course, by other writers, and by Mr. Hessler himself, in his previous books and magazine journalism. But the reporting in Country Driving is impressive in its scope. This book contains dozens of characters and multiple set-pieces and subplots. Along the way Mr. Hessler delivers eloquent disquisitions on everything from how to buy a used car in China and what hospital stays are like to the history of the Mongol conquest and the pros and cons of the Great Wall as a defensive structure. Mr. Hessler is an impeccable compiler of facts, in the John McPhee Eagle Scout mold, and he lays these facts out elegantly
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In his latest feat of penetrating social reportage, New Yorker writer Hessler (Oracle Bones) again proves himself America's keenest observer of the New China. Hessler investigates the country's lurch into modernity through three engrossing narratives. In an epic road trip following the Great Wall across northern China, he surveys dilapidated frontier outposts from the imperial past while barely surviving the advent of the nation's uniquely terrifying car culture. He probes the transformation of village life through the saga of a family of peasants trying to remake themselves as middle-class entrepreneurs. Finally, he explores China's frantic industrialization, embodied by the managers and workers at a fly-by-night bra-parts factory in a Special Economic Zone. Hessler has a sharp eye for contradictions, from the absurdities of Chinese drivers' education courses—low-speed obstacle courses are mandatory, while seat belts and turn signals are deemed optional—to the leveling of an entire mountain to make way for the Renli Environmental Protection Company. Better yet, he has a knack for finding the human-scale stories that make China's vast upheavals both comprehensible and moving. The result is a fascinating portrait of a society tearing off into the future with only the sketchiest of maps. (Feb.)\
Library Journal
This is American journalist Hessler's third travelog-memoir about present-day China, following his Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present. Here he writes of his multiyear journey across mainland China, from the interior farmlands to the heart of urban life there, living for a time with a family from the small but historical Sancha village. Through accounts of his day-to-day interactions, Hessler reveals the struggles of rural life amid the enormous modernization of the country and how the modest ways of life are slowly being erased by the lure of the market economy and big money. Hessler then travels to the coastal regions of Zhejiang, to the booming industrial city of Lishu, where he finds a cast of fascinating characters, including factory bosses, farm girls, and traveling troupes, their lives intertwining in a struggle to survive and adapt to the new life and philosophy of a growing consumer-driven society and an often brutally corrupt political system. VERDICT Hessler offers Western readers an intimate story of a much-analyzed but often misunderstood world; both lay readers and scholars will appreciate. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09.]—Allan Cho, Univ. of British Columbia Lib., Vancouver
Kirkus Reviews
On the road in China with New Yorker staff writer Hessler (Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present, 2006, etc.), as he explores the remnants of its dying rural past and its booming, uncertain urban future. The author received his Chinese driver's license in 2001 and set off on a 7,000-mile journey following the twists and turns of the Great Wall. In a rented car and armed only with junk food and Chinese road maps of questionable accuracy, he explored the great expanses of China's north and northwest, areas largely left behind in the country's surge of economic development. In villages as ancient as the Wall itself, few except the very old and the very young remained, the rest having escaped to the cities and the promise of work. "To drive across China," he writes, "was to find yourself in the middle of the largest migration in human history-nearly one-tenth of the population was on the road, finding new lives away from home." One village north of Beijing seemed also bound for extinction, but the appearance of paved roads, a boom in private-car sales and an urban longing for a glimpse of rustic rural life revived the village and the fortunes of Wei Ziqi and his family. Hessler follows Wei's rise as a village entrepreneur and Party leader and discovers what is possible and what may be lost as poor Chinese villages become tourist hotspots. Finally, the author traveled southern China, where the construction of new roads has enabled the rise of industrial boom towns to which rural migrants continue to flock. He traces the fate of the owners and workers of a factory that makes rings for bras. All of them illiterate peasants, Hessler writes of their dreams and courage in makinga better life within a "no-holds-barred version of capitalism." Though he befriends his subjects, the author never intrudes in their stories, and he follows their lives over a number of years. The result is a remarkably detailed, engrossing account of China today. The human side of China's great transformation, told with humor, affection and great insight.
Time
“The best yet from Peter Hessler, whose two earlier books, River Town and Oracle Bones, were exemplary forays into the genre. . . . Told with his characteristic blend of empathy, insight, and self-deprecating humor.”
The Economist
“Extraordinary. . . . Country Driving, like Hessler’s previous works, tells the story of China’s transformation powerfully and poetically.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Hessler’s genius has always been in his wry commentary and ability to transcribe the rhythms of his environment onto the page. . . . From this cast of thousands emerges a picture of great hopes tinged with sadness at what is being cast aside without second thought.”
The Boston Globe
“Hessler is a keen observer of mind-catching details and an engaging storyteller. . . . Full of exotic detail, solid reporting, and ironic observation, Country Driving offers a personal snapshot of the world’s second superpower hurtling through the 21st century.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Lively. . . . Engaging. . . . Hessler sets out with some suspect maps and a great deal of bravado. . . . He shows the effects China’s ever expanding network of roads exerts on individual lives. . . . Hessler [has an] irresistible urge to follow a story.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“A fascinating road trip through a land in transition. . . . Hessler’s description of China’s new drivers is hilarious. . . . Country Driving tells us as much about contemporary China even when Hessler is not on the road.”
Bloomberg News
“Peter Hessler, a modern Marco Polo crossing China in a rented Jeep Cherokee, has witnessed signs and wonders worthy of a Coen brothers film. . . . Every so often, I read a book that upends my perceptions about a place. This is one of them.”
The Huffington Post
“If you want to understand today’s China, and the forces changing it, you need to read Country Driving.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Hessler has made a career of interpreting contemporary China and, for my money, nobody does it better. . . . Hessler is a magnificent guide to this largely uncharted territory, witty, insightful, keenly aware of the ironies of this communist-capitalist society.”
Time Magazine
"The best yet from Peter Hessler, whose two earlier books, River Town and Oracle Bones, were exemplary forays into the genre. . . . Told with his characteristic blend of empathy, insight, and self-deprecating humor."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061969430
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/09/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
121,531
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Jonathan Yardley

“Exceptionally moving. . . . Hilarious. . . . An absolutely terrific book, at once highly entertaining and deeply instructive. . . . Country Driving is a wonderful book about China that also happens to be a terrific book about the human race.

Dwight Garner

“Delightful. . . . Epic. . . . The reporting in Country Driving is impressive in its scope. . . . Hessler delivers eloquent disquisitions on everything from how to buy a used car in China to the history of the Mongol conquest.”

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