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10 thoughts on “Peking Picnic

  1. says:

    Set in colonial China in the British Legation in Peking Laura Leroy is the wife of an Attache She is torn between two worlds missing England and her children when in Peking but not uite feeling she fits in there after life in China She is well regarded and her friends often turn to her for advice Despite unrest in the countryside a group of her friends arrange a 'picnic' actually a few days lcamping at a Temple in the hills While there they are captured by local bandits however if you are expecting an adventure you will be disappointed The novel is far taken up with the relationships forming or not within the group and they all seem to be coming to Laura for advice She has a wise head on her shoulders but she herself is not immune to romantic feelings A rather bittersweet story with beautiful writing This was a book to savour This was my first by Ann Bridge but it certainly won't be my last

  2. says:

    I have recently enthused about my love of Virago books especially when they come in an original shade of dark green – such is the collector’s obsession Therefore it seemed fitting that the first book I read after the month of re reading –when I could select from my teetering TBR – should be a Virago This particular book was sent to me by Dee from the Libraything Virago group as part of my lovely secret Santa Parcel I have been so looking forward to reading it and I haven’t at all been disappointed Peking Picnic is a wonderful novel Thank you DeeI have been reading this novel rather slowly – certainly the first half of it I did – due to having slept rather badly a couple of times last week – very out of character – which left me very tired I found myself having to read whole paragraphs and pages over and over – as my poor tired brain found working out who was who a bit tricky at first Strangely however I was glad that I had to read it slowly because the writing is so beautiful just as with Illyrian Spring which I read last year – there is a wonderful sense of place which Ann Bridge has created “sitting back in her chair under an oleander for a moment alone what she saw with great clearness was a green field bordered with youthful Scots pines on which a small white figures ran about with happy cries She heard the sound of wood on leather and leather on wood and treble voices crying “how’s that?” and hurrahing eagerly if thinly”As conflict threatens between local warlords Laura Leroy an ambassadorial wife at the very heart of the British Legation at Peking uietly misses her children and dreams of Oxford Mrs Leroy is very much admired and respected in this diplomatic community A host of interesting and diverse characters surround Laura Leroy as the novel opens; including Major La Touche – called Touchy by everyone Laura’s friend Nina Nevile Nina’s niece Little Annette and Laura’s own nieces Lilah and Judith Miss Hande an American novelist and various diplomatic staff such as Derek Fitzmaurice Into this group comes Professor Vinstead a Cambridge academic of psychology for who the idea of a Peking Picnic as a kind of welcome is conceived This picnic is not the Sunday afternoon outing that we may think of when we see the word but of a camping expedition taking a couple of days to see the great temple of Chieh T’ai Ssu As the trip gets underway friendships and romances blossom Laura is called upon to offer advice and uiet good sense to the fledgling lovers while surprisingly finding herself not entirely unmoved by the lonely Professor Things take an unexpected and dramatic turn however when the party are taken hostage by a group of dishevelled bandits This is exactly the kind of novel I love A uiet intelligent novel peopled with memorable and interesting characters I have already said that the writing is beautiful – and it is – and good writing cannot be beaten However there were even some moments which are also very funny When Hubbard – Laura’s odd little maid suddenly appears in the middle of the captors – declaring she hadn’t been captured but had walked in –bearing dozens of cheap cigarettes for Laura and her friends – it is a delightThroughout the novel Ann Bridge uses repeated lines to poetry uoted and thought about by Laura and Vinstead particularly– such as “come you not a careless stranger Him with reckless words to waken” which somehow bring a touching poignancy to the scene described This wonderful novel really will live in my mind for a while

  3. says:

    Think Jane Austin writing a travel novel during the time of Downton Abbey

  4. says:

    A period piece but a thoroughly enjoyable one Laura Leroy is the wife of a British diplomat in Peking in the 1920's When a party of British friends departs on a three day jaunt to a temple in the nearby hills Laura and the rest including the intriguing and attractive Professor Vinstead encounter both breathtaking beauty and great danger Splendid as character studies but also growing in suspense throughout the story this was an unexpectedly entertaining and impressive book

  5. says:

    The post shows up four or five times a day envelopes served on platters by noiseless houseboys Grand motorcars glide along uiet streets Just round the corner from the Forbidden City the noise and dust settles and it's rubbers of bridge in the British Legation clinking cocktail shakers and roundabout references to the murderous t'ai pings just outside the city gates Ms Bridge gives us the full Empire On Parade complete with a jolly little outing that will take our ensemble cast up country for what's called a picnic In the event it involves hampers of appetizers and liuor carried on ahead by mules with camp beds and linens whilst the main party struggles forward riding in estate cars and aboard ferries It's the familiar gathering of military and embassy love crossed youth and wiser elders the odd American authoress and Cambridge don you know the drill Their destination is the rambling and otherworldly Chinese Temple city situated against rolling Asian hills Where half the way into a pretty standard cocktail drenched weekend of dalliances and sunset strolls the t'ai pings attack If this begins to sound a little familiar it certainly is Basically we have A Passage To India in 3os China which merges and morphs with bits of Wings Of The Dove and Up At The Villa depending on where you look in But it doesn't feel formula or boilerplate; there is a certain leeway in using the colonial setting in that the British Empire covered the whole known world at certain points and every kind of narrative can be stitched into the sceneryBridge creates a fascinating heroine here in her older woman head of household Laura Leroy who centers the story and gently draws out the other characters as she goes Oh and by the way it's about 37 years that gets you the 'older woman' niche in this 3os drama Self disparaging but nervy and empowering as the only Chinese speaker and uickest on the draw Laura is the spine of the novel and suffers no fucking around once the going gets dodgy Nothing is too surprising if you've been on this sort of picnic before but Bridge has done a nice little bait and switch By giving us a novel of character dressed in period travel clothing an insightful outing where a lesser author would have gone strictly for the t'ai ping at the gate theatrics we're in Forster or Maugham territory which is intricate and nuanced

  6. says:

    I loved reading this bookThe plot is relatively straightforward centred round a rather unwise excursion into the hills around Peking during a time of political instability and 'warlordism' But the novel is not so much about the events as about the development of the cast of characters involving a number of different kinds of awakeningsIn this sense the book stands in the tradition of novels from EM Forster to Carol Shields It's about love loyalty sex choices and social interaction The lead character Laura Leroy is a somewhat self contained but unconventional and strong woman who plays a pivotal role in the awakenings of several of the other characters She's a very well written character a 'modern' person in 1930s terms yet one who anchors many aspects of a conventional societyI found the portrayal of foreigners in 1930s China authentic You won't find here the irritating and conventional tropes of post colonial literature but people portrayed as real peopleMore censorious modern readers might find some of the social s a little disturbing eg in attitudes to servants but surely no than in Downton Abbey The characterisations of racial psychology mainly in terms of French and English differences rather than western versus Chinese in some of the dialogue might also jar but this is how people spoke at the time Check out some DH Lawrence to find other contemporary examplesIt's an authentic novel with great characters emotional connection and also some great passages of description But what appeals to me most is the evident humanity and insight in the author's writing

  7. says:

    I picked this book up in a shop not realising it had been written in 1932 so the old writing style took a chapter or two to get used to having only read contemporary books for the last year or so However it was a thoroughly enjoyable readThe story revolves around a group of expats in 1930s colonial China who decide to go on an expedition up in the hills to a Chinese monastery Whilst on this expedition they witness the turbulent political nature of China at this time which threatens to put them in dangerI found the book to be relatively slow paced with any action or suspense occurring in the last uarter of the book However the imagery described by the author throughout the book is where the beauty of the book lies The author manages to amazingly transport the reader to the surroundings she is describingIf you are looking for a book which vividly illuminates the scenery of colonial China then I highly recommend Peking Picnic

  8. says:

    Once I managed to get going with this novel I really enjoyed it Ann Bridge set the scene describing the city and countryside the people and their colonial status And the wonderful relationships that evolve during the picnic Whilst illicit love isn't condoned it is presented in a way that makes the reader understand and wish Laura and the professor well I especially enjoyed the relationships with her staff and their devotion to her She is a strong woman surviving in her husbands world but making her own life within it Her sadness at being separated from her children was intense and hard to comprehend in this day and age

  9. says:

    Excellent book captures the feel of the British colonial era in China in the early 20th century Similar in style to books that deal with the british raj in India China is not an area where lots of books were written covering this period Interesting and well written If you like CS Forester etc then it will interest

  10. says:

    Ann Bridge's writing is always pleasantly enjoyablethis novel that describes 'ex pat' life in pre WW2 China is no exception

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Peking Picnic [PDF / EPUB] Peking Picnic In her experience all the richest and most valuable things were mixed up somehow or other with being hurtHappiness was the flaunting honeyed flower of the soul; but the root was pain and the twin frui In her experience all the richest and most valuable things were mixed up somehow or other with being hurtHappiness was the flaunting honeyed flower of the soul; but the root was pain and the twin fruits knowledge and strengthThough war lords skirmish in the countryside formal diplomatic life proceeds in the fabled city of Peking At its centre is Laura Leroy an attache's wife admired valued and a little feared though privately grieving for her children and for England When a group embarks on a camping trip to a great temple the breathtaking scenery provides a perfect backdrop for romance and while offering wise and tactful advice to the young lovers in her midst Laura finds her own heart touched by a lonely visitor But all such contemplations must be cast aside when a group of bandits takes the party hostage and violence erupts.