When Karen Connelly goes to Burma in 1996 to gather information for a series of articles, she discovers a place of unexpected beauty and generosity. She also encounters a country ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that imposes a code of censorship and terror. Carefully seeking out the regimes critics, she witnesses mass demonstrations, attends protests, interviews detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and flees from police. When it gets too risky for her to stay, Connelly flies back to Thailand, but she cannot leave Burma behind.
Connellys interest in the political turns more personal on the Thai-Burmese border, where she falls in love with Maung, the handsome and charismatic leader of one of Burmas many resistance groups. After visiting Maungs military camp in the jungle, she faces an agonizing decision: Maung wants to marry Connelly and have a family with her, but if she marries this man she also weds his world and his lifelong cause. Struggling to weigh the idealism of her convictions against the harsh realities of life on the border, Connelly transports the reader into a world as dangerous as it is enchanting.
In radiant prose layered with passion, regret, sensuality and wry humor, Burmese Lessons tells the captivating story of how one woman came to love a wounded, beautiful country and a gifted man who has given his life to the struggle for political change.
I am complimenting Burmese Lessons when I say that it is a book that is difficult to define. It is a travel narrative of the finest quality. Its pages contain both history and biography. Most of all, it is the memoir of Connelly's fierce love for both a person and place. This book meets my definition of a page-turner. It is literary nonfiction of great substance and beauty. (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
Quill & Quire
Haunting and poetic.... Connelly fans will be enthralled.
Connelly compels admiration for her brave intrusions into dangerous and awkward situations, and above all for her candour.
Connelly writes eloquently of having given her heart to Asia, yet her portrait is dated as the country has changed much since then, considering the recent devastation by Cyclone Nargis.
Treading the boundary between romance and politics, Connelly presents an evocative account of passionately living the revolution, shedding light on those who give everything to the cause, and those who love them. Piercing and raw.
Boldly examines Burma's tumultuous climate and nuanced cultural ethos with colorful prose and gritty self-reflection.
The Wall Street Journal
Ms. Connelly is a hugely engaging writer. Burma itself—as Ms. Connelly well knows—is rather more complicated than one difficult love affair.
Globe and Mail (Canada)
The recounting, re-imagining, of Connelly’s immersion in the mid-90s [in Burma and Thailand] reveals a brave, even foolhardy, idealistic, beautiful young woman utterly seduced, co-opted, transformed by Burmese culture….
During the time covered in Burmese Lessons, the military government in Burma was known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). This name has since been changed to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), but the behavior of the government has not changed. Since 1962, the ruling military regime has severely restricted the freedom of its citizens. Freedom of speech, the guarantee of a fair trial, and the protection of children from hard labor are just a few of the rights absent in Burma. Media is restricted to only state-approved outlets, such as this English language newspaper.
Burman opposition groups have grown more organized over the years since the student protests in 1988 and the arrest and denied election of National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Ong San Soo Chee) in 1990, despite her party winning...
A brave and revelatory reconnaissance of modern Burma, one of the world's grimmest and most shuttered police states, using as its compass the life and work of George Orwell, the man many in Burma call simply "the prophet"
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