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Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 24, 2009
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"[A] standout travel memoir...Gilman's descriptions of their trials and tribulations crackle with wit."―Booklist
"Youthfully upbeat, Gilman delivers an entertaining memoir...offering the full wallop of disorienting, in-the-moment, transformative travel adventures."―Publishers Weekly
"[An] ambitious and intimate coming-of-age memoir."―Kirkus
"With her trademark intelligent, irreverent voice Gilman takes us on a journey that feels terrifyingly real, immediate and life-threatening. The woman is no less than a godsend to a reading world that has become too used to lies, half-truth and spin."―Alexandra Fuller --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven starts off very slowly. If you're not paying close attention to what's going on, as I was not, the book seems like yet another "clueless recent college graduate with backpack" travel journal. Even the book's title is somewhat misleading; it made me expect a cobbled together collection of exaggerated, drunken adventures in developing countries.
I was wrong, very wrong.
Small, seemingly insignificant, things begin happening to Gilman and her traveling partner. As patterns emerge, the story begins to take on threatening, even malevolent, overtones and the pace quickens. What began as two innocent and idealistic girls taking an around-the-world trip turns into an uncontrolled descent into chaos, fear, and personal destruction.
Sure, this all sounds like a plot for a bad Roger Corman horror movie--especially that last bit!--but Gilman manages to make everything unfold in a mesmerizing yet believable manner. She writes in an engaging, flowing style that truly brings the story to life. Gilman's experience as a journalist has given her a talent for capturing key details of people and places, so that even the parts of the book that may have been embellished don't feel out of place or totally implausible.
The story also benefits from twenty years of hindsight. Gilman occasionally breaks away from the main narrative to comment on the things she thought and did at the time of the story, when she was twenty-one.Read more ›
Gilman and her pseudonymous companion, Claire, are arm's-length friends when they embark on the adventure of a lifetime, inspired by the map on an IHOP place mat. At some point in our lives, each of has probably pursued a brash dream with someone we hardly knew, but in Gilman and Claire's case, the consequences surpass anything they and their apprehensive families could have imagined. Beyond their naivete and the sheer foreignness of the environment the two young women plunge into, at 21, Gilman increasingly finds herself forced to deal with her friend's rapid descent into psychosis (which, she points out in the afterword, may have been the product of antimalarial medication). Along the way, she encounters some unforgettable characters: a generous, English-speaking Chinese man who befriends them in the hope that they will help him defect; a clueless, lumbering German misfit; a free-spirited American mother and her two rambunctious sons; a Chinese waitress who prepares Western food for homesick backpackers; a German hunk whose kindness matches his considerable romantic appeal; and a Canadian nurse who rallies to her aid at her time of greatest need.
As compelling as the people she meets is her take on the country itself. The picture she paints of 1980s post-Kissinger China is rich and textured, frequently rendered with delicious irony and dark humor. The bravado with which she handles various encounters with Chinese culture, cuisine and government authorities is both unnerving and astonishing.Read more ›
The author's friend at first seems a bit kooky but gradually becomes totally separated from reality. In other words, she loses her mind and becomes a danger to herself and others. The goal then becomes how to get her friend back to United States before anything too terrible can happen to her.
Although this sounds grim and depressing, Gilman has written it in the style of Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. It is at times hysterically funny, and I often read passages out loud so my partner could understand why I was laughing.
This is a wonderful book that proves that most people are decent and sweet. I can absolutely see it being made into a film.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I can't even imagine how strange it must have been to travel to China in 1986 - I went in 2006 and was bothered a lot more than I expected by not having any way to communicate. Read morePublished 1 month ago by jfog
This memoir about travel to and in a previously closed nation was fascinating and riveting. Ms. Gilman brings 1980s China and her experiences to life in full Technicolor. Read morePublished 2 months ago by JillHum
Freaky true story, but will resinate with anyone who has traveled internationally and felt out of place and at awe with the lack of knowledge you actually have about the world... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Erin Ryan
Excellent book. I've read a couple travel memoirs and done a lot of traveling myself and this book really surprised me. It was a fascinating story, it was hard to put down. Read morePublished 2 months ago
Amateurishly written memoir of an adventure in China after the country just reopened their borders by a narrow-minded college kid. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Derek