Author: Mildred Cable
Title: The Gobi Desert
Destination: Northwestern China
Length: 5 treks in 12 years
Type: by caravan
Three ladies taking it slow
The story: MC and two other British ladies working for the China Inland Mission decide to take it upon themselves to spread the gospel in the Western territories of Gansu and Xinjiang. They undertake several journeys by caravan, talk to the locals, and eventually write a book and publish it under MC’s name.
3 special things
Three things are special about this book: All three of them have been staying in China for some twenty years before their adventure, so they are pretty accustomed to the people and their way of life (as opposed to Peter Fleming and Ella Maillart, for example). They seem to be more interested in the people they encounter on the way than in the adventure itself (which can be a good thing). They share a true love for the desert.
Mildred Cable’s love for the desert
I don’t know if they have harbored this feeling before the start of their journey, or if it develops as they go along, but there is at least one paragraph that I found particularly moving. It is about their feeling upon returning to Britain:
“I… long for a place that seems so near and is yet so far away. Sick with longing I walk among the crowds while my spirit flees to the quiet which is found by the hidden lake among the dunes.”
Yes. Yes. And yes!
So why is this only a 7/10 then? Well, one minor problem with this book is that it is made up of five different trips and therefore lacks a consistent story line (which I would expect in a twentieth century narrative). Add the fact that the writing seems a bit unhurried at times, and you can see why I think that this is not one of the easiest reads around.
Still it is a valuable book, especially if you are interested in Northwestern China before the founding of the PR China.
A 7/10 from someone who misses the desert too.