Dr Stephen FitzGerald, AO

This is a China book you read through in one go, drawn by the writer/editor’s need to catch and hold images of a Beijing of 20 years ago and of the love of her life who went there with her, reluctantly (and who a decade later she lost to cancer). From his letters to family and friends and her connecting comment she presents a very intimate China reportage that is personal and conversational, with often unfashionable private judgments that could be made without having to be careful. It is at once a wistful love story … and a dialogue between her and her late partner about China as they found and judged it then, like oral history. Its fascination is in how it brings back the foreigners’ ‘China life’ of that time, and the way foreigners’ perspectives and judgments were formed, and what they were supposed to see, and what they saw and thought. This will be its value for those who study China, or who just want to know.