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This novella is absolutely gripping. It tells the story of a 24-year old American engineer who sets off to explore the Yangtze in order to draft plans for a major dam - an undertaking which, as we now know, wasn't actually completed until 2008, nearly a century after the events imagined by Hersey. The young man travels up river on a junk owned by Old Big, an experienced mariner who has had his share of misfortunes, and in fact lost a boat on a previous journey. Old Big is married to Su-ling, a p...
John Hersey is a good writer. He creates characters well, his stories move along with great energy and he makes a reader care deeply about what goes on. But sometimes, despite all those qualities, he just misses. This is one of those times. A young American engineer has been sent to China in the 1920s to inspect the Yangtze River for possible locations on which to build a dam. He travels up that unpredictable and powerful river on a junk, through gorges, rapids and whirlpools. Surrounded by the
The story follows a young American engineer who boards a Junk for a trip up the Yangtze river in order to scout for sites to build a dam. It's an excellent story that describes the hardship and danger involved in such a trip and the men whose job it was to, literally, pull the boat up through the rapids.
This is a lovely book. A simple and brief story, told in hindsight by an engineer sent as a young man to China in the 1920's to identify a potential site for a dam to be built by his American firm. Journeying up the Yangtze River, he finds himself on a primitive vessel hauled by hand up river by forty "trackers" to the Three Gorges. The men stoically pit their strength pulling the junk with bamboo ropes against the raging river in a terrifying scenario that has been unchanged for centuries. Ther...
I originally read this book in about 1960 but it is cited by many of the authors of books on China that I have recently read. I liked it very much as a metaphor for the cultural, social, political clashes and changes awaiting China as it entered the world scene. I particularly liked the idea us all trying to navigate up a huge river with steep massive gorges and impossible rapids using old techniques and wondering about how new technologies might help or might not and even more difficult being t...
This is a deceptively simple story about a journey up the Yangtze River in a junk. In the hands of John Hersey, it becomes a small masterpiece. With clear, concise prose, he captures the drama in the lives of the river workers and their daily challenges. For me, it was a memorable journey.
Exquisitely done. This book still makes me think, many years after reading it, how significant and insignificant each of our lives can be, depending on perspective.
Having enjoyed my random purchase of 'The Child Buyer' some time ago, I thought I'd give 'A Single Pebble' a go when I saw it for 50p.I read it in a day, a testament not so much to its length (126 pages) as to its readability: a story of self-discovery and apparently unbridgeable cultural difference cultural compellingly told.This compelling quality lay for me in the effects of the first person narrative - a record of what the fiftyish narrator remembers about his younger twentyish self - and th...
A 1955 novel by John Hersey, who is most well known for his small book Hiroshima, a nonfiction accounting of the atomic bombing and for his Pulitzer prize winning novel, A Bell for Adano, this book follows a young American engineer on a boat moving up the Yangtze en route to a job. So Hersey was born and grew up in China, and part of this book seems to be a kind of reckoning with that childhood, but also maybe a response to the books of Pearl Buck, who also worked as a China-situated American wr...
This book was interesting to read, but not one of my favorites. It follows this American engineer who was hired by a company to survey the Yangtze River in China. This river brought a lot of problems to Chinese people of that time, so he's sent to find a solution to make it better. He ends up observing and speculates these Chinese ship tracking people. It shows what he's thinking throughout the entire book, so you didn't really get to see the perspective of the other people on the ship. He doesn...
First of all, I found the young engineer/narrator to be arrogant and insufferable. He exhibits the perfect example of Western pretension in the way he assumes that the way things have been done for a thousand years is inferior to new fangled machinery and thinking. He is unaware that his dam project will ultimately be built a hundred years or so later, and is depressed at the prospects of it ever happening. The author does a good job of describing the fantastic landscape of the Yangtse River, so...
Beautifully written story of a trip in a junk up the Yangtze River in which a young British man tries to communicate with the Captain of the Junk and the Crew. Not only was language a barrier but the whole outlook on life was very different. Trying to make peace and understand his companions on the journey was at once beautiful and sad.
A wonderous book about an engineer traveling by boat up the Yangtze river looking for a place to built a dam. He learns that the people of the river love their hard lives and feel that he is the stupid one. Hersey's descriptions are breathtaking and dynamic. Many new vocabulary words for me. He is surprised by the calmness to the loss of human life in China.
Wild water, wild journey, and wild rules frame the journey our young American engineer takes in China. Dreams of building a dam on the Yangtze collide with traditional customs of the Chinese in the course of their travels up river together. In the end, East meets West without resolution of nature's challenges.
Short first-person account of an American engineer journeying up the Yangtze River in search of a likely site for a dam. Takes place in in the 1920s; setting is on board a junk over a couple weeks. The characters are inscrutable but well-drawn and the plot has action without melodrama. A reminder that interpretation of an unfamiliar culture is difficult and even dangerous. Well written and easy to read. Simple tale but not simplistic. Call it 3.5 stars.
Captivating, intense, Hersey describes a ride up the Great River, the Yangtze, on a Chinese junk, a barge hauling cotton. The struggle to move the cargo against the flow revealed centuries old practices of boatmanship. Hersey writes with the delicacy of a flower surviving the power of a hurricane. This short read leaves the reader raw, exposed, and yet, exhilarated.
Great story, and tension-filled, as a headstrong young American engineer accompanies the crew of a Chinese junk carrying freight up the Yangtse River through the deadly series of massive gorges by pulling it, inch by inch using ropes. This would seem to be a impossible task, and it is nearly just that, requiring the skilled services of Old Pebble who hauls and sings and stamps his feet and lives for nothing else than to do the Sisyphean work of leading the hauling crew. The story, setting and ch...
This book was certainly not my usual fare: it was a book club read. On the other hand, I did find a few factors I enjoyed. I liked the folk tales told by Su-ling, the Chinese view of progress, and the rhythms related to the men who moved the boar up the Yangtze. Also, it was nice and short. That helps. 🤓
Eh, another white guy decides it would have been better not to mess around with the lives of other people. Kind of obvious from the start and not much else to it. Decent and with good details, but kind of thin overall.
I only give it four stars because the author purposely revealed where the story was going and I don't particularly like that. However, it was so well written that I would suggest this book to anyone.
I think this book may deserve three stars. It was a meaningful book, but I can't say that I truly enjoyed the read. I had a difficult time visualizing the setting and the mechanics of moving a ship like that. I think I'd prefer a movie version.
this was a fascinating book from the 1950s. felt like a different style of writing, a difference pace. plus, the topic was very old, too. Overall, it just felt like a book from a different time, which I really enjoyed.
for Book Club. Just research any visual footage of trying to get a Chinese junk up the Yangtse rapids.
short book about an American engineer on the Yangtze River. Not very exciting, but a good enough read
The magic and terror of the Yangtze as experienced by a young American engineer in the 1920's.
Prescient novella about the Yangtze River told from the pov of an American engineer sent to survey it for a dam.
Poignant, very nicely framed, with some beautiful turns of phrase.
John Hersey is great. If you haven't read anything from him besides "Hiroshima" you should. His books are of a time, but also timeless.
Well written, but lacks depth and pace in the story.
This was one of two books gifted to me on my wedding day from one of my all-time best friends: Tony Mercer (who actually officiated our ring ceremony). His inscription indicated that he thought I'd enjoy John Hersey's classic tale about twentieth-century tensions of West vs. East and modernity vs. tradition particularly given my two years as a missionary in southeast Asia. Indeed, he was correct. Here is a passage from the book that resonates almost perfectly with my feelings at the end of my tw...