Your Garage Summer Reading Amazon Fashion Learn more Discover it Fifth Harmony Father's Day Gift Guide 2016 Fire TV Stick Subscribe & Save Father's Day Gifts Find the Best Purina Pro Plan for Your Pet Amazon Cash Back Offer LoveandFriendship LoveandFriendship LoveandFriendship  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Introducing new colors All-New Kindle Oasis X-men Apocalypse GNO Shop Now Learn more
Customer Review

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chinese Epic, February 23, 2012
This review is from: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (Hardcover)
Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is a fast paced, tightly focused and compelling history of the civil war that tore China apart in the mid 19th century, at the same time America was enduring its own Civil War. It is one of the best written histories involving China I have come across, indeed one of the best on any topic.

The author is able to rein in the far reaching complex story by focusing on two characters, Zeng Guofan, a scholar and later reluctant soldier who became the most important general defending the Manchu empire and Hong Rengan, the Taiping prime minister who brought word of the rebellion to the West, particularly Christian missionaires who he expected to work with "God worshippers" among the rebels, many of whom had adopted some aspects of Christian belief.

In my view this book is superior to God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquanby veteran China scholar Jonathan Spence, which covers the same territory, but less effectively. Spence's book focused on the actual leader of the rebellion, Hong Ziuquan, and his increasingly delusional world view impacted the book.

But Platt, who I presume was a student of Spence's while at Yale, has outdone the teacher here. Autumn is much easier to follow, in part because of a generous supply of maps, a comprehensive who's who of characters and a timeline clarifying the chronology of events.

The book also gains from Platt's decision to basically pick up the story at midpoint, focusing on the concluding half of the war. The book has been critized for this, but we have a full, busy narrative as it is. A larger book might very well have spun out of control, as Spence's did.

Much of the book is a military history, describing armies on the march, attacking, laying siege to one river town after another on the Yangtze. Platt does not engage in very much analysis, until a ten page epilog chapter, but he does not need to. The parallels to the subsequent war between the Nationals and the Communists in the 20th century are impossible to miss.

In an effort to reach an American audience, Platt may have overstated America's influence on events. At the time, Western involvement basically meant the British. But the points of comparison with the American Civil War are fascinating.

This is a terrific book by a new author - it is just Platt's second book. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]

Comments

Track comments by e-mail

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2015 10:14:09 AM PST
I appreciate the comparison with Spence, because my first thought was "I have Spence's book, why do I need this?" --since Spence's work is well known, I expect I am not alone in that.

Posted on Jun 3, 2015 6:39:17 PM PDT
J. Leighton says:
I have to agree 100%. For me Spence's book provided the impetus that got me interested in the Taiping rebellion, but Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom provided clarity and I felt the author was able to combine good storytelling without detracting from the historical value of the book. Spence sometimes gets bogged down in the details and loses focus. I only wonder why Mr. Platt hasn't written more since the publishing of this book.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›