BookBrowse Reviews Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Burmese Lessons

A True Love Story

by Karen Connelly

Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly X
Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2010, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


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

Why do we read? And why do writers like Karen Connelly devote their lives to creating books? Among the reasons I spend precious hours reading, one of the primary is to know myself better. Such discovery is accomplished most often by temporarily becoming part of the lives – fictional or factual – of others. In Burmese Lessons: A True Love Story, Connelly references her own reasons for writing about Burma, Burmese friends and her Burmese lover; but I can not know all of those reasons or their rank. What I can know is that her love story, both for a country and for a man, was a solid fit in my hierarchy of motivations for reading: Connelly's talent for word craft, combined with her passion, brought me, a reader with little knowledge of Burmese culture or history, to the doorstep of the country.

Connelly already had a strong bond with Asia when she traveled to Burma in 1996. Her time in Thailand as a seventeen year-old exchange student initiated her passion for Asia's culture and people groups. She originally traveled to Burma on a mission to interview a specific woman, an imprisoned writer; once she arrived, Burma's political and practical struggles arrested her mind and heart. She was compelled to see more, to immerse herself, trying to come closer to understanding a world far different from her Canadian birthplace or her beloved home in Greece.

As she travelled and made contacts, interviewing as widely as possible, Connelly met a man named Maung. She soon learned that Maung was a leader in the revolutionary group All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF). But before she knew even this much, his interest in her was irresistible. From their initial meeting at a party to their time spent with ABSDF revolutionaries in border jungle, Connelly and Maung shared an insatiable physical attraction. Trying to differentiate between love and lust became nearly impossible for Connelly as both impulses asserted themselves strongly and with great speed. She continued her research and writing during this love affair, and the uncertainty caused by the relationship exerted strong influence on her work. Connelly's narrative celebrates the pleasures of sex without shyness, but equally emphasizes the other pleasures of the senses in her lush descriptions of landscapes and foods.

The contrast between the couple's desperate lovemaking and the gritty and dangerous plight of the Burmese dissidents is jarring in places; in most instance, however, Connelly's transparency works as a demonstration of her commitment to nearly uncomfortable honesty and as a reflection of the incongruous reality the Burmese dissidents (and those devoted to their cause) face. They have little choice but to blend arduous survival work with the satisfaction, where possible, of their most human desires.

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

This review is from the June 9, 2010 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
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: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

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.