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3 Stars Out Of 5
January 23, 2010
This book was like the neverending story to me. It seemed to drag on forever. If I had read the notes at the end before I started reading, (to find out that it is based on a true story) perhaps it would have been easier to read. I kept thinking it was going to have a Christian message, but it mainly dealt with the heroine's doubt. I was interested in Siam/Thailand, but found myself skimming much of the text to get to a storyline.
One of my most favorite movie musicals of all time is The King and I. The remake, Anna and the King starring Jodie Foster and ChowYun Fat, is equally stunning and beautiful. These movies gave an insight to Siamese culture. Thailand was the only Southeast Asian country to never fall to European colonization. Yet missionaries flocked to the country to help to westernize and bring Christianity to the people. This book joins that list to aiding to help give an insider's look at the country. There were several female characters in this story that really irked my gut. I just hate how women always manage to find someone to put each other down, even when they are supposed to be uplifting in a dire situation. I felt so sorry for Barbara after the way she was treated especially when she had done absolutely nothing wrong. It's just sad how missionary life can make people bitter because they soon realize they cannot change the world by themselves. I disliked Harvey at first. He seemed to act like the stereotype of most men who are more career driven than family minded. I was actually quite impressed with Barbara's decision. It was very modern of her to do what she did which her suffragette background helped to influence. I thought the story was extremely well written. I really felt like I had traveled back to the 1920s with the excellent description of the time period. This is a wonderful armchair traveler as the reader becomes immersed in the Thai and European cultures. This story also has special meaning to meaning to me as my father's family is from neighboring Burma. Therefore many of the unique traditions mentioned in the story are shared by my cultural background as well. If there's a historical fiction book you read this year, it needs to be this one. HIGHLY recommended.
I loved this book. Its a feminist book in the truest sense of the word. Not because it champions womens rights exactly, but because it tells the universal story of women, it gives a layered and complex look at one womans journey and the difficult decisions she faced choosing between her passion and her true love.The characters are magnificently drawn, there were times I wanted to speak some sense into both Harvey and Barbara and help them bridge the growing gap. :) The settings are vividly described, you can clearly picture these places in your mind and feel so much of what Barbara must have felt. During the missionary years, the whole set-up rings of so much authenticity. Admittedly, I found the hard line some of the missionaries took to be terribly discouraging and rather heartbreaking that they lacked the ability or compassion to recognize the very real need of one of their own team members! I know, however, that this is true to life on the mission field. Many missionaries struggle with competing visions and personality clashes.Barbaras continued search for meaning in her life, the historical elements of her times woven into the story, her love for her husband and desire for him, and all her many exciting international experiences make this a book I think every woman will relate to (regardless of her marital status or religious background) and enjoy. I couldnt put it down.