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Country Driving

by: Peter Hessler

New York NY: HarperCollins Publishers 2010, $27.99, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-0-06-180409-0

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2010 Issue: 17(4) page(s): 24

With the subtitle of: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, I called to ask for a review copy; and it arrived post-haste. Glad it did. The Wall Street Journal calls this New Yorker staff-writer one of the Western world's most thoughtful writers about modern China. As soon as I opened the packaging, I did wonder why the advertising blurb said its subtitle is: A Journey Through China from Factory to Farm.

That inversion should have been a clue that things are not what they seem. Not that the book is not a fascinating read, it is. However, no matter where they locate the word farm, there is virtually nothing in this book about China's farms.

Want to learn about driving in that country, this is the book for you. Must confess, on one early drive there is the mention of a potato farm in the distance. That was about as close to food as this book gets. Even when Hessler celebrates a birthday or holiday meal in a restaurant, not a word about the edibles. A few comments do exist about alcoholic beverages, but even their tastes, colors, and flavors are not described.

This is an investigation of rural China and some years the author lived in a small farming village in the mountains north of Beijing. The notion that these two years can feed my food-starved brain as locals hope the new government-built expressway will transform their farm region into a major industrial center does not offer a single sentence glimpsing farming or food.

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