Miss Stuert's stint as a missionary-teacher in China during the years 1912 to 1917 obviously supplied her with a lifetime's...

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BROKEN BITS OF OLD CHINA

Miss Stuert's stint as a missionary-teacher in China during the years 1912 to 1917 obviously supplied her with a lifetime's worth of tea party anecdotes on the literal mindedness of servants, the embarrassment of seeing her houseboy appear in church proudly sporting a set of her long underwear, the discomforts of traveling by ""wheelbarrow"" and sleeping next to an occupied coffin, and the general strangeness of Chinese toilets, pillows, food and temperament. But though these episodes provide their share of incidental insights into the pre-revolutionary lifestyle, they reveal even more about the naivete and occasional condescension of a visiting American who could opine that ""I often wondered if they hadn't discovered, by trial and error -- which seems to be the way they have arrived at most of their customs -- that sweets take the edge off one's appetite"" or repeat a friend's observation that ""they (the Chinese) invented many things, but never passed them on. The rest of the world had to reinvent them, which is why world civilization owes so little to China."" This provincial outlook, coupled with the morally unexceptionable character of a missionary's experience, is perhaps the reason why these memoirs are considered particularly suitable for young people. Adult readers might be more likely to place the autobiographical bits and pieces in their proper perspective, though all age groups will likely find them as entertaining as they are ephemeral.

Pub Date: March 1, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Nelson

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1973