Thursday, June 17, 2010

Take me away!

Sometimes you just want a book to take you away ... far away ... like maybe Mongolia.

Galsan Tschinag's The Blue Sky will do it! Tschinag's autobiographical novel is the story of a young Tuvan shepherd boy coming of age in the 1950s in the Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia.

Mongolia, though an independent country, was heavily influenced by the Soviet Union at this time. The nomadic traditions of the Tuvans continued largely unchanged but the modern world was beginning to encroach. In particular, parents were under pressure to send their children to state boarding schools. Dshurukuwaa's older brother and sister go, leaving him alone with his parents, his grandmother, and a remarkable dog named Arsylang.

The steppes of Mongolia are a harsh environment and the life of a nomadic herder is one of relentless and often grueling labor. But the land is beautiful as well and family life in the yurt is comforting and warm.

Engaging and at times deeply moving, this is a slow and quiet book. It is above all transporting -- an enchanting trip ... far away.

This is book 1 of a trilogy. The translation of book 2, The Gray Earth, is due out in early 2011.

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