as we did
This time it was to finish our consulting work in China and then travel
overland to Vietnam, where we spent three months.
In late May we started
four months in
In late September we went to
and spent our time there, except a break-out to the USA in Nov-Dec.
Brethren by Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong
A very interesting inside look into the Supreme Court of the United
Sometimes it was hard to believe the things described actually
Does that make us naive? If you are a cynic about government and
judges your predispositions will be reinforced.
The problem here is that
the conservative judges are all described as being stupid or wrong-minded
while the liberal judges (or more often, their clerks) were trying to protect
the country from them.
Are only conservative judges wrong-minded?
by Richard Crossman
The diaries cover the years (1964-1971) in which
Jan was just becoming aware of politics, first as a high-school and then
a college student, so she was delighted to find this first person account
of the Wilson Labour governments in a second-hand bookstore in
The author, Richard Crossman, was the Minister for Housing
and Local Government in the Wilson government.
Although rich, he was avowedly
left-wing and his policies are amongst those Margaret Thatcher overthrew.
By the end of his time in government he was sick of it and the accompanying
hypocrisy and infighting.
Crossman had been a journalist and when the second
Wilson government fell, he became the editor of the New Statesman for the
few years until his death.
Recommended for political junkies; a great soap opera
War A Chance by
A collection of articles that appeared in various magazines over the
years, now arranged by topic.
O'Rourke is right wing and thinks the left
needs some skewering and proceeds to skew.
The intention is to be funny;
whether he is or not depends upon the readers own humors.
For Gerry it
was mostly a good read.
History of Cambodia by
No, Gerry, whose middle name is "David" is not the author, and the author
is not even a relative.
And, the David Chandler is not the only historian
with that name.
First to the positive: the book is well written, and gives a good perspective
on Cambodian history.
Among other interesting tidbits are how the Vietnamese,
when they had supremacy over Cambodia around 1800, tried to suppress local
That little bit is suppressed in official histories by the current
cut-throats in Hanoi who cry about protecting their heritage from colonial
Now the negative: the closer we get to modern times, and especially
for the years after 1960 (or so it seems to these reviewers) does David
Chandler let his leftist political leanings obscure his analysis.
chapters this takes the form of writing improbabilities that contradict
Still, why should we complain? We bought a knock-off copy in
Reap, so probably no money went to the Author.
Rêveurs du Désert
Barbara Glowczewski, 1996
A Polish-born, French Canadian anthropologist’s
account of her five-month stay with the Aborigines in Australia’s Northern
Territories as a young student and then a return visit years later.
got this book as a swap from a 40-something French woman that we met on
our Mekong delta cruise in exchange for
by André Malraux.
Although at first it seemed as though it might
be a feminist tract, it turned out to be worthwhile in two very different
ways. First, as an interesting first-person account of the life of
Aboriginal women and second, of the growing-up process the author went
through during different visits to the same tribe over a period of ten
We have to say that it revealed our cultural prejudices: we wouldn't
like people who act like Australian aborigines if they were in our milieu.
Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
A best-seller that we read during one of our sojourns in England.
men in a fishing boat set out and encounter a "storm of the century".
rescue crew is sent out and needs to be rescued.
Always amazing and at
times very gripping.
in Paradise: A Country Doctor at War in Laos
by Charles Weldon
Weldon worked in Laos the decade or so before the communist takeover
He describes trying to bring health to a primitive country under
war time conditions.
He has nothing good to say about the communists and
very little good about the American government which he thinks sold out
the Laotian people.
Lots of exciting moments, including helicopter crashes
and hiding from people with guns.
We bought this book in Chiang Rai, Thailand, after our two trips to
We both read it quite avidly and found we agreed very much with the
political point of view expressed, which was avowedly anti-Communist.
been on the very primitive roads of the country we could appreciate his
descriptions of the country at a time were there were essentially no roads.
One of the stories in the book also appeared on British television in
a show called "Survivors".
The show included a brief shot of the ageing
Weldon who now lives in northern Thailand.
Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him
This was one of the pirated books we purchased at the Fortune Hotel
Reap (the city closest to
Wat). It is autobiographical and tells the story of the author's
life as a 13-15-year old under the Khmer Rouge. A story of hunger,
we found it a gruesome story, but one that helped us understand Cambodia
Heaven and Earth Changed Places
by Le Ly Hayslip and ghostwriter
This is the only book we have read so far
Vietnam about Vietnam. There are some around, but this is the
first to come into our hands. It is autobiographical and describes
how a Vietnamese woman, who just happens to be the same age as Jan, grows
up in a central Vietnamese village and comes under the sway of the Viet
Cong as a pre-teen and teenager. It then recounts how she slowly
changes her allegiance until at the age of 21 she marries a 60-year old
American and moves to the U.S.
The story pauses there and is taken up again
in 1986 when as a widow she returns to Vietnam for her first visit to find
what 10 years of living under Communism has done to her family.
easy read and quite thought provoking.
For Gerry there were nagging doubts:
why was it that her brother was the only one in the village that never
took bribes, etc?
Among this class of books not the best.
Broken Glass and
Year of Living Stupidly by James Eckhart
Harry Longman was doing pretty well as a journalist in Thailand when
the economy collapsed and he was out of a job.
He went next door to Cambodia
and covered the end of the Pol Pot troubles and then eventually made it
back to Thailand.
Along the way he talks about his relations with his Thai
wife in what we assume is exaggeration for comic effect; if not, wow! As
we passed through many of the same places and had our own interactions
with Thai in-laws it was interesting to read another's experiences of these