Graham Earnshaw

Overall Rating: 4
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Author: Graham Earnshaw
Title: The Great Walk of China. Travels on foot from Shanghai to Tibet
Time: 2004-2010 (interrupted)
Destination: Shanghai to Sichuan
Length: several intervals of a few days
Type: on foot

Closed Questions

The story: GE is a British journalist/entrepreneur who has stayed in China not only for a couple of years, but for a several decades. In 2004, after having read our old friend Edwin John Dingle‘s account of his own travels through China 100 years earlier, GE decides to do the same – walk through China. Only he is going to do it on the weekends or whenever he can find the time.

Graham Earnshaw walking the river

The book is medium-length and basically an okay read. There is not much about walking as such, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. GE gives us some rather detailed accounts about rural life along the Long River. He talks a lot to people, and he tells us his own thoughts about what he sees and hears.

There seems to be a problem though. “I bill myself as a China expert” (p.9), he tells us right along the first few pages. Now you might want to be careful when someone calls himself an expert. Not necessarily because he is just showing off, but rather because this might lead him to be less open to new things.

ask only if you want to know

This was precisely what I found awkward about this book. GE often seems to know (or assume to know) what the people around him are really thinking. This in turn leads to closed questions and rather uninteresting conversations, if not to say to a rather judgmental position taken on by GE. Here is a conversation from page 278 that I found a bit disturbing:

GE: “How many letters are there in the English alphabet?”
10-year-old boy: “I don’t know.”
“There are twenty-six. How many letters are there in the English alphabet?”
“I don’t know.” His brain was not processing this.
“I just told you. There are twenty six. How many lettere are there in the English alphabet?”
“Thank you.”

Now keep in mind that this is one of the worst examples, the rest of the conversations are not as bad as this one. But there is still a certain tediousness to it all.

only for China enthusiasts

Why would you read this book then? Well, I suggest you only grab a copy after having read some more substantial authors (like Peter Hessler or Rob Gifford), and only if you are looking for something particular about life along the Long River. If you are interested in travel literature or stuff about walking: this might not be the right thing for you.

A 4/10

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