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The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi Hardcover – March 29, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] rich new biography of Burma’s most famous dissident.”

“Peter Popham’s vivid new biography, The Lady and the Peacock, illuminates the qualities that have made [Aung San Suu Kyi] one of the twenty-first century’s great political personalities.”
—New York Review of Books

“Peter Popham tells this story superbly in The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, by far the best book yet written on this elusive heroine.”
The Wall Street Journal

“In the latest, and very timely, biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, Peter Popham ably chronicles the incredible story of her life.”
The New Republic

“Peter Popham’s life of Aung San Suu Kyi is gripping, partisan and emotional . . . It contains fascinating new material and conveys, better than any other account, the stirring drama of her confrontations with the junta. But perhaps the most interesting thing about it is its timing. . . . The Lady and the Peacock is an essential record of the struggle for democracy in Burma before the mysteries and promise of the Thein Sein era: a reminder of the 49 long years that preceded eight breathless months of reform.”
London Review of Books

“Peter Popham’s richly detailed biography sheds new light on Burma’s heroine and the still unfolding struggle against military oppression she personifies. An important book.”
Joseph Lelyveld, author of Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India

“A masterly narration of the life of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi . . . She makes one proud to be human in her company. What a gift to our world and what a splendid telling of it in this book. We are deeply indebted to Peter Popham for such a superb account.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“This is the definitive and superbly written account of one of the most intriguing and admirable political and moral figures of our times.”
Pankaj Mishra, author of An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World

“A spellbinding biography of Aung San Suu Kyi . . . provides a complex and nuanced portrait of her on so many levels.”
The Huffington Post

“Popham paints a sympathetic and well-rounded portrait of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in this timely biography. . . . In addition to recounting Suu's remarkable life story, Popham, a foreign correspondent for The Independent, deftly outlines the political climate of the troubled nation, and shows how this revolutionary woman became a global symbol of democracy, resolve, and freedom.”
Publishers Weekly

“Peter Popham’s biography of Aung San Suu Kyi could not be better timed, as the woman who has been the real leader of her country is at last free to participate openly in its politics. This book provides a rich and often surprising portrait of Burma and of Aung San Suu Kyi and her family, which for more than half a century has played a central role in the country’s drama. As an age of reform seems in sight for Burma, The Lady and the Peacock sheds exceptional light on its prospects and on the experiences that have shaped its coming generation of leaders.”
James Fallows, Atlantic Monthly, author of China Airborne

“We live in a time of political pygmies, but even in an age of giants Aung San Suu Kyi would stand out. Peter Popham's The Lady and the Peacock provides a compelling account of her life and career. Her intellectual evolution is deftly sketched, her marriage portrayed without sentimentality and her struggle against authoritarianism carefully outlined. Reading the book, one desperately hopes that by shaking the hand of the ‘world’ leaders who now line up to meet her, Suu Kyi transfers some of her exceptional courage on to them.”
Ramachandra Guha, author of India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy

“If the generals think they can control Suu Kyi, they would do well to read . . . Popham’s biography.”
The Progressive

“An inspiring biography and a rare glimpse of what Burma could have been, and could still be. . . In the aftermath of the first, tentative loosening of the military’s death grip over the country, Suu Kyi’s next chapter remains to be written. For now, enjoy this compassionate biography of an exemplary leader.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Readers interested in modern Asian history and current events will find this book well worth reading.”
Library Journal

“The most comprehensive, accessible, honest, and fair biography of Aung San Suu Kyi to date, blowing away all previous efforts . . . The Lady and the Peacock will leave the reader inspired.”
Benedict Rogers, author of Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads

“A brilliant portrait of the most famous political detainee of our time, Popham’s book illuminates not just Aung San Suu Kyi but an entire nation as it makes its twisted, uneasy journey into modernity.”
Siddhartha Deb, author of The Beautiful And The Damned: A Portrait of the New India

“In this eloquent and evocative biography, Peter Popham supplies fresh insights into the personality of the stoic lady who is the symbol of Burma’s democratic aspirations. Aung San Suu Kyi’s success or failure is measured in terms of her own ethical yardstick rather than the calculus of state power.”
Sugata Bose, author of His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire

“Suu Kyi emerges as a wonderfully human figure, adding a softer dimension to the remotely beautiful, stubbornly determined, unfailingly polite, and breathtakingly brave woman.”
The Times (London)

“A portrait both warm and objective . . . it will not be bettered for a long time.”
Independent on Sunday

“The first serious biography of Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

About the Author

Peter Popham has toured Burma as an undercover journalist several times since his first visit to the country in 1991. A foreign correspondent and feature writer for the Independent for more than twenty years, he has reported from locations around the world, including South Asia. He is also the author of Tokyo: The City at the End of the World. Married, with two children, Popham lives and works in both London and Milan.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The Experiment; 1 edition (March 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781615190645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615190645
  • ASIN: 1615190643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Knowing little about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, I found her elegant biography both informative and lovely. Of course, the story of the Burmese activist could practically tell itself. Her life was balanced between a Western education, a home where her parents were directly involved in the liberation of Burma and years of detention, house arrest and trauma fighting for her country. In an age where non-violent resistance is becoming a primary means of effecting change around the world, it is easy to forget Burma's Saffron revolution of 2007. Aung San Suu Kyi's story personalizes her country's travails and embodies a life that symbolizes for not only her country's, but also the world's non-violent struggles. The author, Peter Popham, enlivens Aung San Suu Kyi's tale with his craft, in-depth research, findings from clandestine meetings, and story construction. I was surprised by some of the other reviews on this site, which paint, I believe, an inaccurate picture of what I found to be a well-wrought account about a remarkable figure.
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Format: Hardcover
I had the bittersweet pleasure of seeing one of Suu Kyi's last public talks in the 90s. A monsoon downpour ended the talk, before the usual English language portion, but her charisma and electricity were evident anyway, along with the broad cross-section of people who had come to listen. People I knew in the human rights world worried about the degree to which change in Burma had become so heavily invested in her, as opposed to a broader based movement. Still, both Suu Kyi and the grassroots desire for change persisted through her long exiles.

The book provides a brief history of Burma and brief biography of Suu Kyi's father, Aung San, the revered hero of Burma's independence, who was assassinated during her early childhood. The history of Burma, the circumstances of colonization and the evolution of the independence movement presaged challenges that Suu Kyi would face in bringing together disparate ethnic groups and clashing with a military her father once led. Suu Kyi had a privileged but disciplined upbringing by her mother and was somewhat out of step with the 1960s world she encountered at Oxford. Suu Kyi had a brief career at the UN, but the married a British future academic from a more modest background. She lived the thrifty life of an academic's wife and took care of their home and children, while also occasionally helping with her husband's work. Her husband had agreed that if she was needed in Burma, she would have to give that life precedence. It was a promise that led to long separations from her family and her husband's tragic death without her.

The book is handicapped by the author's limited direct contact with Suu Kyi and her limited contact with the outside world over the past twenty years.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It feels wrong to give this book a poor review when the woman being written about is such an amazing human being. I was deeply disappointed by the sloppy organization and the showy prose. Again and again the writer distracts from the story of Aung San Suu Kyi with overtly dramatic rhetoric. His subject matter deserves better.

Second, the book didn't offer much in the way of new or interesting information. Since this was apparently an unsanctioned biography the author relies on minutiae from distant or past acquaintances. I cannot comprehend why he thought it needful to descend into such trivial matters. Because she's a woman we should care what she was wearing?

I am so disappointed. I wanted to purchase a copy of this book for my mother's Christmas present when I first heard it was coming out. Sadly, I will have to wait for an author who is willing to let Aung San Suu Kyi shine in her own amazing way rather than competing for the readers attention with flowery language about the least interesting of details.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Among other distinctions, Aung San Suu Kyi, referred to as "Suu" throughout "The Lady and the Peacock," is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. However, she was unable to attend in person to receive her award, being confined to her home alone and forbidden to travel by the powers-that-be at the time. Her husband and son attended instead. While demonized and consistently underestimated by the Burmese authorities because of her gender, Suu's efforts to bring about a fairer, more democratic government were honored by those outside Burma, and indeed by millions of her own people.

Suu is the daughter of the Burmese revolutionary Aung San, who was assassinated when she was two. He had barely assumed office, but the anniversary of his death, known as "Martyrs' Day," was the most popular national holiday until abolished by authorities. Suu's mother, Daw Khin Kyi, partly to keep her out of the way by those in power, was named the Burmese ambassador. Suu attended school in New Delhi, then England, where she graduated from St. Hugh's College in Oxford with a less-than-stellar degree which would keep her from taking advantage of further educational opportunities. Later, she married British journalist, Michael Ayis, had two sons and for a time, became a homemaker. However, Suu, through her creation of the National League of Democracy, her writings on nonviolent ways to bring about a better government, her inspiring speeches to the public, and her family name, became an international celebrity and a symbol of hope for the Burmese, even after being placed under house arrest.

Her journey does not really follow the traditional narrative arc, at least from the Western viewpoint. It may seem to readers that for every step forward, she and her followers take two back.
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