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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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Lost in Translation Paperback – May 11, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nicole Mones doesn't waste any time getting to the heart of the matter in her first novel, Lost in Translation. Within the first 10 pages we discover that protagonist Alice Mannegan, an interpreter based in Beijing, has a yen for sex with Chinese men. By the time we reach page 20, we've learned that Alice is in full flight from her father, a racist U.S. congressman, and about to start working for Adam Spencer, an American archeologist on the hunt for the missing bones of one of the century's biggest scientific finds: Peking man. Having set the stage, Mones steps back and lets her characters do the work as she proceeds to spin a tale that is part mystery, part love story, and part cultural exchange. Alice and Spencer travel to a remote region of China, accompanied by Dr. Lin Shiyang, with whom Alice falls in love. Mones spends a fair amount of time on the team's search for the bones, whose mysterious disappearance during the Second World War has never been explained, but her main focus is less on finding Peking man than on exposing the skeletons in her main characters' closets. As Alice, Spencer, and Dr. Lin move forward in their quest, they are forced to reckon with their pasts. Each, it seems, has an ulterior reason for being where they are and doing what they do, and it is in the subtle play of personalities, motivations, and misunderstandings that Lost in Translation finds its rhythm.

The key to the novel's success is Mones's in-depth knowledge of China's culture, history, and politics. The question of cultural identity is at the core of her tale, and she skillfully weaves various aspects of Chinese life--from ancestor worship to the Cultural Revolution--into the personal relationships of her characters. By novel's end, readers have discovered a great deal about archeology, China, and most especially about the unmapped territories of memory, desire, and identity. Lost in Translation is a fine first novel, the first salvo of a promising literary career. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An attention-grabbing opening chapter in which the protagonist, translator/interpreter Alice Mannegan, rides off on her bicycle to a sexual tryst in Beijing, hints that this debut suspense novel will be a racy read. But Alice's sensuality is just one factor in Mones's complex portrait of a woman in search of herself, played out against the exotic background of some of China's remotest regions, a story that reveals as much about character and cultural difference as it does about a search for priceless, long-lost fossils. China is Alice's spiritual home, where she feels far removed from her loving but racist father, a U.S congressman whose political opinions she deplores. But despite her desire to belong there, she is still considered an "outside woman." She signs on as interpreter for archeologist Adam Spencer, who believes that the remains of Peking Man were hidden in the Mongolian desert during WWII by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Joined by two Chinese scientists, they venture into remote regions where the urgency of the search is paralleled by Alice's increasing attraction to Dr. Lin Shiyang, whose wife vanished from a labor camp in that region 20 years ago, and by the unfolding story of the relationship of Teilhard and an American woman who loved him. The authenticity of Mones's background detailAfrom the rituals of ancestor worship to the workings of the PLA police and the food at a Mongolian banquetAbrings fresh insight into the nuances of Chinese culture. Though the narrative tension is more intellectual than visceral, and some pivotal events of the plot seem too convenient, Mones succeeds in integrating archeological history, spiritual philosophy and cultural dislocation into a tale of identity on many levels. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (May 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385319444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385319447
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I loved this book, but I am biased. I am the same age, physical description, and emanate from the same geographical region as Alice. I also read this book while I was living in China and found it to be an accurate view of an American woman living in China. Alice is a woman who tries very hard to escape from her heritage and her past by immersing herself in the Chinese culture. This is also an approaching middle age story. Alice 36, has spent all her adult life in Beijing, and is pondering what she has to show for it all. Alice also agonizes over lost love, her biological clock running out, reconciliation with her estranged father, and future career plans.

The author manages to create novel around an actual historical event. The plot is built around a hunt for the bones of the Peking Man. They were stashed away for safekeeping during the Japanese invasion of China on the eve of WWII. They mysteriously vanished and remain unaccounted for to this day. I was so intrigued that I read some non-fiction books about the discovery of and disappearance of the Peking man, one of the oldest complete skulls ever found, and its disappearance. Fortunately, the archeologists made a plaster cast of the skull and it survived.

By the way, I noticed some criticism from some Asians who didn't like the premise of the story. I ask that they keep in mind the target audience and the cross-cultural aspects of the story. If Alice were Chinese it wouldn't be much of a story. While I was living in China I happened across a book written by a Chinese man who had attended Vanderbilt University. It was a bilingual book about how he "discovered" my city. I read it with great interest because I was curious to know how an outsider viewed my city and my culture. While it was basically a positive book I respect the fact that the author wrote about a few negative experiences he had in my city.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel of the intersection of language, identity, cultures and sex in an archeological expedition in China today is one of the best I have read in quite a while. With the Jesuit rebel priest and anthropologist, Teilhard de Chardin, as the leit-motif behind most of the personal interactions. the reader is offered new insights into human as well as divine love.The protagonists are an American woman trying to get as far away as possible from her racist father and the culture he ordains, an American anthropologist trying to recover Peking Man to restore his career, and a Chinese anthropologist who has been traumatized by the Cultural Revolution (called the Chaos by Chinese today)and his wife's destruction by it.Alice Mannegan's attempts to become Chinese are doomed despite her proficiency in the language and knowledge of the culture and history of China. It's painful but enthralling to watch her try to come to terms with her father, her "true Chinese man" Dr. Lin, and her possible future in China. She is not the most likeable person, but she is not repellant in any way. Just foolish in her understanding of herself and her history.Adam Spencer the American anthropologist who hires Alice as translator is the least interesting. Dr. Lin and the many Chinese actors in this tale reveal a great deal about contemporary China which I daresay most westerners,including myself, do not know.The mystery and the history of Peking Man's discovery, disappearance and possible final end is exciting. One learns much Chinese geography, customs and traditions, the subtleties of Chinese ideas, and the difficulties of life there today. We are very different from one another and we Americans do not realize how fortunate we are.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Every once and a while you pick up a book or are introduced to a book with a theme around a culture and a series of personae that you find so incredibly foreign to your own existence that you are grateful for such a gift.   This book, while a well-written novel about a bit of a mystery, was a magnificent albeit fictional view through the author's window into the modern-day Chinese culture.   A culture so foreign and seemingly xenophobic that rare glimpses through, even a westerner's eye, are a treasure.  Alice Mannegan, whose father is a (fictional) US senator, and a bigoted and egoltistical one at that, is a young women who has done her best to melt unnoticed into the billions of the Chinese demographic landscape.  She works as a translator when she needs the work, and maintains a secret parallel life in the smoky bars of Beijing.  One day she is contracted to work as a translator for a young American archeologist named Adam Spencer who is in China tracking the potential whereabouts of the remains of the "Peking Man" (an archeological treasure) through the letters and writings of an 18th century French priest and his love.  This enchanting book is at once a political thriller, an adventure, a love story, and a novel about coming to terms with one's family, one's life, and the decisions one makes in an effort to take the right paths toward happiness.  A must read.
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Format: Paperback
The key to this novel lies in its epigraph, a quotation from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French anthropologist and priest whose explorations of fossil hominids in China in the early 20th century forms the backdrop for this ambitious novel. "...it would seem that we have only got to look at ourselves in order to understand the dynamic relationships existing between the within and the without of things at a given point in the universe. In fact so to do is one of the most difficult of all things." Mones's novel is not only an anthropological, quasi-Indiana Jones search for relics (in this case, the remains of Peking Man), but it is also a novel about its main character's search to make the complicated connections de Chardin speaks about in the quotation. Alice is an American interpreter living in China in an unspecified time period close to the present. Alienated from her Congressman father because of his overt racism, Alice seeks to leave America behind and become Chinese. As she joins the search for the skeleton of Peking Man, Alice confronts her own demons. The book works at more than one level, but never fully succeeds as a thriller or as a character study. Nonetheless, the title captures quite well the difficulties of trying to move between cultures, never being sure what has been lost in translation. In fact, as wenavigate between thewithin and the without, don't we all lose something in translation, an insight the book portrays rather well. This is a novel worth reading and worth discussing with a book group.
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