RaveThe New York Times Book Review... riveting ... While Jun scrambles to survive in Jinmen, it is Hong who suffers the most, and it is her struggle that drives this absorbing book ... Li wisely fades into the background as she unspools these stories, surfacing occasionally to provide personal context. But her love for her aunts warms every page. If this exceptional book has any flaw, it is this: Li presents the sisters as near-saints, often taking pains to justify any seemingly morally ambiguous choice they make ... But what choices! Li unpacks the decisions each made to survive, and explains how those decisions pulled them toward the ideologies of their governments ... In placing her aunts’ stories side by side, Li presents the reader with two equally compelling questions: Will the sisters ever be reunited? And if so, will they even know each other? ... not a history of Taiwan-China relations, but in telling this gripping narrative of one family divided by the \'bamboo curtain,\' Li sheds light on how Taiwan came to be — and why China might one day risk everything to take it.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...rigorous and engaging ... this is the key message of Tsu’s book: The story of how linguists, activists, librarians, scholars and ordinary citizens adapted Chinese writing to the modern world is the story of how China itself became modern. Following the history of the script helps explain China’s past, present — and future ... This book tells the stories of those who decided otherwise. Tsu’s title, Kingdom of Characters refers both to the literal characters that make script and the people who sought to save them. She does not sugarcoat their difficulties, introducing us to, for example, Wang Zhao, an exiled reformer who crossed China disguised as a monk, risking his life to introduce a new Chinese alphabet that he believed would unite the country under one common language ... Each step of the way, these innovators had to ask questions like: How can the Chinese script be organized in a rational way? Could the language be written with an alphabet? And if so, which one? ... By examining these questions closely, Tsu helps the novice to Chinese understand both the underlying challenges and how they were conquered. (I sense Tsu is an excellent teacher.) This material could, in the wrong hands, become dry. But Tsu weaves linguistic analysis together with biographical and historical context — the ravages of imperialism, civil war, foreign invasions, diplomatic successes and disappointments ... Languages, as this book makes clear, convey worlds. The world of Chinese script, painted so vividly by Tsu, is one I’m now grateful to have glimpsed.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... fascinating ... Flanders, a meticulous scholar who has written books on Victorian London and the history of Christmas, prioritizes thoroughness, and at times her book can read a bit like the encyclopedias she writes about. The footnotes get some of the best lines ... Ultimately, A Place for Everything rewards us with a fresh take on our quest to stockpile knowledge. It feels particularly relevant now that search engines are rendering old ways of organizing information obsolete.