WHEN THINGS GET DARK by Matthew Davis

WHEN THINGS GET DARK

A Mongolian Winter’s Tale
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A lively, frank look into the Mongolian psyche by a young Peace Corps English teacher.

Based in the central mountainous city of Tsetserleg from 2000 to 2002, Davis was just 23 years old and fairly inexperienced in many things when he arrived in Mongolia. However, he was easygoing and not terribly fussy about heat and personal hygiene, preferring to live in a ger, the distinctive felt-covered tent spawned from the Mongolians’ nomadic way of life. His entertaining travelogue/memoir is divided into nine sections, “Nine Nines,” by which Mongolians demarcate the long, dark winter season. Perhaps as a result of their 70-year socialist period—ending with the fall of Soviet Communism in 1991—the mostly young-adult native students were keen to obey the teacher’s authority, though quick to cheat when they could get away with it, often lazy and rarely given to creative expression. After the Soviets had largely obscured Mongolian history deriving from Chinggis Khan—as the name of the founder of the Mongolian Empire is written here—the great warrior has been rediscovered with a vengeance, and Davis provides a serviceable history of Mongolian politics (the country is only now emerging as a democracy). Mostly, there are stories from the lives of the people he encountered: marriages and families complicated by a deeply ingrained drinking culture, promiscuity, domestic violence, low wages and yearning for Western goods and education. While traveling the country, Davis explored the Mongolian hatred for the Chinese, the attempts at regeneration of the Mongolian Buddhist heritage and preservation of the traditional herding ways.

A nicely organized work that offers a rare glimpse into a little-understood part of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-312-60773-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2009




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