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The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal Paperback – June 13, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Vickie Constantine Croke in THE LADY AND THE PANDA recounts this wonderful saga of a determined New York socialite, who after the death of her young husband on a similar mission in China, takes up where he left off, invests her entire inheritance on her quest and surprises practically everyone when she brings back Su-Lin for all the world to see and adore. The panda takes up residence in Chicago's Brookfield Zoo where, the author says in her "Preface" that he drew "more than 53,000 visitors when first displayed at the Brookfield--a single-day tally the zoo has never again matched." Such famous people as Helen Keller, Shirley Temple, Sophie Tucker and the Dionne quintuplets fell under Su-Lin's spell. He was insured by Lloyd's of London.
Ms. Harkness is a bigger than life character. The author tells us that though short in height, Harkness always appeared to be much taller than she was. She is quoted as saying that the two things she hated most were going to bed at night and getting up in the morning. In addition to her passion for pandas, she was besotted with beautiful clothes--she was a dressmaker by profession-- cigarettes, alcohol, fine food and late-night parties.Read more ›
By the time Ruth Harkness arrived in China to attend to the remains of her late husband's expedition in 1936, several big game hunters had sent panda skins to museums, but no one had succeeded in bringing a live panda out of the country. Her husband had gone to China to try, but died of cancer in a Shanghai hospital without ever seeing one. No one thought a former dress maker and New York socialite could succeed where seasoned hunters had failed. They did not know Ruth's idea. They never even thought of packing a baby bottle and formula.
In The Lady and the Panda, Croke tells the story of Harkness, her three expeditions, and the international acclaim that she received for bringing two pandas to the Brookfield Zoo. The journeys were difficult. When available, Harkness and her team traveled by boat, train, plane, auto, or rickshaw; often they hiked up steep paths to reach mountainous forest reserves. With supporters and rivals in the field, she dodged Chinese authorities and the invading Japanese army. In time she came to the conclusion that the expeditions were endangering the pandas and dishonored the land that she had come to love.
Readers who enjoy natural and political history and those who enjoy adventure stories will enjoy this book.
The Lady and the Panda is the true story of a Manhattan socialite who carried on her beloved late husband's quest - to be the first to introduce the world to the giant panda. The young dress designer left NY and, over the course of several expeditions, she found adventure, beauty, love, meaning, and - yes - pandas in the wilds of China. Harkness did indeed bring the first panda to the West, and America fell in love with the baby Su-Lin. After making his new home at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Su-Lin drew up to 53,000 people A DAY to see the adorable and exotic black-and-white bear.
The story could have ended there and been a fairly typical adventure/travelogue detailing yet another veiled story of America exploiting another culture. But Ruth Harkness lived an even more interesting life than that. In the midst of China's war with Japan - the outset of World War II - and "panda fever," with hundreds of explorers killing and trapping pandas across China's previously unspoiled wilderness, Harkness made a heart-breaking realization. Her quest and international popularity had in fact hurt the panda, threatening their very existence. She then did the unthinkable, returning a captured panda to the wild, and for the rest of her life became a leading voice for conservation.
Croke's book was a wild ride, as Harkenss herself was a larger-than-life character. I loved the glimpse of the hard-drinking, hard-living expatriate community in China, the poetic descriptions of both the beautiful land and people, and the insights into the relationships between zoos, money and "explorers" of the day.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a delightful read. Sorry for the cliche but I truly couldn't put it down. Croke's poetic prose about Ruth's quest - so much more than just a travelogue - kept me mesmerized... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bookie
As an animal lover, I picked up this book for the story about the bond between and women and a panda, but instead experienced a story of a woman explorer who sets out to find the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Good book about interesting adventures but Ruth Harkness's social side, and especially her excessive drinking, were less interesting to me.Published 11 months ago by Lou
As this is the story of the woman who introduced the West to the live panda, I found the book fascinating in all she went through to get the baby panda back to California. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Nogg43
Interesting story....I actually saw that first panda at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago when I was a little girl...Published 14 months ago by jerrie keyes