Excerpt from Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Fieldwork

A Novel

by Mischa Berlinski

Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski X
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


But we were there for the fish family. All of the other vendors were ordinary, Josh said, nothing special, run-of-the-mill, the kind of stuff you’d find outside the market of any two-bit town from Isaan to the Malay border. But the fish lady and family, boy howdy, they were something else. “The prime minister’s nephew told me about this place,” Josh said, gesturing at the fish stall. Rows of silvery fish sprawled on a bed of ice, black-eyed, rainbow-gilled, and healthy-looking, as if they had just swum up minutes ago and were only resting; and below them massed ranks of clams, mussels, oysters, and ominous black anemones. “It’s better than the Oriental Hotel.”

We sat down, and Josh ordered for us. Twice our waiter walked away from the table, and twice Josh called him back to order still more food. Josh was at ease in his domain, leaning back in his chair like a pasha. It was August, the trailing end of the rainy season, when everything oozes. Josh pulled a piece of toilet paper from the roll on the table and gently blotted his face and hands, then opened his satchel and pulled out a half-empty bottle of Johnny Walker Black.

Josh was a natural raconteur, but he wasn’t much for the old give-and-take of normal conversation: he asked after my day and listened to my reply with a distracted air, nodding occasionally, until he could be patient no longer. “That’s just great,” he interrupted. He took another slurp from his drink. “You know, I’m glad you’re in town. I need someone who really knows the up-country.”

This was Josh’s subtle way of forming a segue from conversation to monologue: in all his years in Thailand, Josh had come to know the north far better than I did. There was hardly a corner of the kingdom that Josh didn’t know, where he wouldn’t be greeted by the abbot of the Buddhist temple - or by the madam of the best bordello - with a huge smile.

I waited to hear what Josh had to say. He paused for a second, as if gathering his strength. He leaned his heavy forearms on the plastic table. He pouted his heavy lips and flared his nostrils. He strained his round neck from side to side. Then he launched his story. There is no other way to describe it: a Josh O’Connor story is like a giant cruise ship leaving port, and when you make a dinner date with Josh O’Connor, you know in advance that you are going to set sail. It’s part of the deal. It’s a design feature, not a bug.


“Do you remember Wim DeKlerk?” Josh began.

He didn’t wait for me to reply. In any case, I did remember Wim: he was a functionary at the Dutch embassy, and a drinking buddy of Josh’s. The last time I was in Bangkok, I took Josh and Wim home from Royal City Avenue in a taxi, both of them singing Steely Dan songs at the top of their lungs. They were celebrating a stock tip that Josh had passed on to Wim from the prime minister’s nephew. Apparently, Wim had made a killing.

“Well, about a year ago, I got a call from Wim. Some lady in Holland had called him, asking if he knew anybody who would go and visit her niece up at Chiang Mai Central Prison. This woman—the niece, not the lady in Holland, the niece is named Martiya, her aunt is Elena, both of them are van der Leun, are you following all this?—her uncle had just died, and the niece, Martiya, has inherited some money. Wim tells me the aunt wants somebody to go up there and take care of the details, you know, look this Martiya in the eye, explain what happened, make sure she understands everything. The aunt is about a zillion years old, doesn’t want to travel, the niece won’t reply to her letters, so she wants somebody to take care of this in person. Wim asks if I want to do it.”

The story didn’t surprise me: I remembered Wim telling me about his job at the embassy. Every day, he had told me, a worried parent called him from Amsterdam looking for a detective to help track down a child lost in the island rave culture; or a textile importer from Utrecht would call, asking him to recommend a crackerjack accountant to go over a potential business partner’s books. Offering advice to Dutch people on how to get things done in Thailand was his specialty. Once, he told me, he had even helped a circus in Maastricht get an export permit for an elephant.

Excerpted from Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski. Copyright © 2007 by Mischa Berlinski. Published in February 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Southernmost
    Southernmost
    by Silas House
    Southernmost opens with a devastating flood in Cumberland Valley, Tennessee. Could it be divine ...
  • Book Jacket: Confessions of the Fox
    Confessions of the Fox
    by Jordy Rosenberg
    In Confessions of the Fox, a fictional academic, Dr. Voth, finds a manuscript in the library where ...
  • Book Jacket: Tango Lessons
    Tango Lessons
    by Meghan Flaherty
    Meghan Flaherty's touching memoir, Tango Lessons, reveals some hard but important truths about ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Almost Sisters
    by Joshilyn Jackson
    Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters is a powerful look at the intersection of privilege, family, ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Fly Girls
    by Keith O'Brien

    How five daring women defied all odds and made aviation history.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    So Much Life Left Over
    by Louis de Bernieres

    An evocative and emotional novel set between the World Wars.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Our House
    by Louise Candlish

    A disturbing and addictive novel of domestic suspense.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Vox

VOX by Christina Dalcher

The story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter in a society where half the population is silenced.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T B Y Speak

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.