Monday, November 26, 2007


I am easily distracted by working in a library. Rather than actually work, I could spend hours flipping through books—particularly those on display. That’s how I found Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski.

In the novel a fictional Mischa Berlinski, a freelance writer living in Thailand, researches the story of an American anthropologist convicted of murdering an American missionary in Chang Mai. Much of the story recounts what Berlinski learns during his research—both about Martiya van der Leun, the anthropologist, and David Walker, her victim.

The author Berlinski, who worked as a journalist in Thailand, has a clear appreciation for the country. His descriptions of the landscape, people, and language feel authentic, including a particularly humorous and realistic description of learning to speak Thai.

Although the subject matter—murder—is surely depressing, the overall tone of the book is not. Berlinski does an excellent job of keeping a balanced tone and melding the plot with descriptions of Thailand and the work of American missionaries.

This book was nominated for this year’s National Book Award, and it deserves the distinction. Although the book is not outstanding, it is an interesting, well-written read.

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