“Age of Ambition: Chasing fortune, truth and faith in the new China” by Evan Osnos

PattyRecommended by Patty

So – China. Should I be worrying about this?Age of Ambition

Has anyone else noticed that, in addition to being in our news all the time, China is now also starring as the winner in some of the newest apocalyptic fiction? David Mitchell’s “Bone Clocks”, for instance.

I admit this: I only really notice a global shift when it begins appearing in my fiction. (For that matter, has everyone also noticed the rise in apocalyptic plots overall? I may be the last one to pick up on that.)

But back to China. Aren’t those people Communists? Then how can they also be world masters? I know I need to find out more. But I like my information served up with a good storyline to keep me interested. So that led me to “Age of Ambition”, a work of non-fiction by Evan Osnos.

Non-fiction? Really?

I know, right? That’s not usually my path. But here’s the subtitle: “Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China”. Sounds intriguing. And it is. The tales Osnos tells in this account of his years living in China are part personal history, part travelogue and part profiles of some very interesting characters. Taken as a whole, it does a fine job of explaining what is up with China these days in the compelling fashion of a really good read.

He starts with: “Autonomy was creeping into daily life. In Mao’s day, it had been considered immoral to take a second job, because spare time belonged to the state. By the nineties, so many people were moonlighting that there was a boom in the business of printing business cards. The state media, which had once encouraged everyone to be a ‘rustless screw’ in the machine, now acknowledged the new reality of competition: ‘You must rely on yourself.’ ”

Okay. I get it.

Then there’s this gal, who grew up at the foot of a mountain: “Gong’s family raised peanuts and cotton and chickens and pigs. She was the elder of two children, and she was small and sickly. She had narrow shoulders and thin lips, and her face at rest carried a wary expression. In the hierarchy of village life, this did her no favors. The local boys wanted girls with plump cheeks, and lips in the shape of a rosebud.”

Sounds interesting. Makes me want to keep reading. Get more details here.

I recommend this book because: works like journalism, reads like fiction.

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