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Fieldwork

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Fieldwork Cover

ISBN13: 9780312427467
ISBN10: 0312427468
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

When his girlfriend takes a job in Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, planning to enjoy himself and work as little as possible. But one evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story: a charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead--a suicide--in the Thai prison where she was serving a life sentence for murder. Curious at first, Mischa is soon immersed in the details of her story. This brilliant, haunting novel expands into a mystery set among the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life became a battleground for the missionaries and the scientists living among them.

Mischa Berlinski was born in New York in 1973. He studied classics at the University of California at Berkeley and at Columbia University. He has worked as a journalist in Thailand. He lives in Rome.
A National Book Award Finalist

Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
The New York Magazine Best Debut of the Year
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of the Year
A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year
A Seattle Times Favorite Book of the Year
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal  Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Top 10 Book of the Year
 
When his girlfriend takes a job as a schoolteacher in northern Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, working as little as possible for one of Thailands English-language newspapers. One evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story. A charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead—a suicide—in the Thai prison where she was serving a fifty-year sentence for murder.

Motivated first by simple curiosity, then by deeper and more mysterious feelings, Mischa searches relentlessly to discover the details of Martiyas crime. His search leads him to the origins of modern anthropology—and into the family history of Martiyas victim, a brilliant young missionary whose grandparents left Oklahoma to preach the Word in the 1920s and never went back. Finally, Mischas obsession takes him into the world of the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life becomes a battleground for two competing, and utterly American, ways of looking at the world.

“With its offbeat style, Berlinski's consummate fieldwork—fictional though it may be—produces an intricate whodunit, both disturbing and entertaining. Even as he confesses to feeling ‘like the baton in a relay race of faulty memories and distant recollections, Berlinski meticulously unearths Martiya's ‘good story, taking readers on an intoxicating journey filled with missing souls and vengeful spirits.”—Terry Hong, The Washington Post

“[Berlinski is] a gifted storyteller delivering a simple story . . . Fieldwork is quite definitely a novel, exuberant and inventive, affectionate toward its characters but not indulgent of them. It has none of the cultivated flatness of modern reportage, and one of sparseness of line . . . Its a quirky, often brilliant debut, bounced along by limitless energy, its wry tone not detracting from its thoughtfulness.”—Hilary Mantel, The New York Review of Books

“With its offbeat style, Berlinski's consummate fieldwork—fictional though it may be—produces an intricate whodunit, both disturbing and entertaining. Even as he confesses to feeling ‘like the baton in a relay race of faulty memories and distant recollections, Berlinski meticulously unearths Martiya's ‘good story, taking readers on an intoxicating journey filled with missing souls and vengeful spirits.”—Terry Hong, The Washington Post

"In a thickly plotted twist on the genre of aimless Americans seeking redemption abroad, Berlinskis freelance-journalist narrator (also named Mischa Berlinski) stumbles on the case of an anthropologist who killed herself in a Thai prison while serving a sentence for her inexplicable murder of a Christian missionary. Fascinated, Berlinski investigates the missionary and the anthropologists shared interest in the spiritual and social life of a particular Thai village, presenting an enormously detailed account of the village as if it were a history of real events . . . The book succeeds in evoking the quixotic appeal of both the anthropological and missionary enterprises—of documenting other culture and of converting them."—The New Yorker

“Mischa Berlinskis first book, Fieldwork, is that rare thing—an entertainingly readable first novel of ideas . . . Berlinskis narrative is brilliantly plotted and builds to a shattering but entirely credible conclusion.  Theres a particular authenticity attached to the settings and to the lives of the Dyalo, though they are a fictional people . . . What sets Berlinskis book apart from others like it is its utterly contemporary evocation of a compelling old dichotomy: faith and reason.  Martiya, the anthropologist, speaks for that latter tradition, the missionary Walker family for the former.  Both make their cases in an entirely American idiom, and it is the great strength of Berlinskis novel that he lets them do so on an intellectually level playing field on which two competing ways of understanding the world and its people contend . . . A less interesting writer would knowingly draw the irony implicit in the shared magical thinking of both the missionaries and the tribesmen.  Berlinski, however, is too interested in both viewpoints to caricature either, and the result is a genuinely unsentimental empathy that gives his narrative its real propulsive force . . . [Contains] a fearless generosity of spirit that refuses to take a side . . .  Fieldwork is a notable piece of first fiction—at once deeply serious about questions of consequence and refreshingly mindful of traditional storytelling conventions.  If his narrative sometimes bumps against a young writers impulse to tell you everything he knows, its a forgivable shortcoming, particularly when stacked against this novels admirable strengths."—Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

"A sad and powerful tale . . . Inspired and courageous."—San Francisco Chronicle

"An impeccably structured novel portraying two strikingly different milieus . . . Bravura storytelling."—The Seattle Times

"Berlinski provides a vivid picture of missionaries, devils, demons, and paganism in the distant Thailand hills. It seems people all over the world believe in spirits, ghosts, and more."—Florence Waskelewicz Clowes, Polish American Journal

"A top-notch debut novel . . . A reader doesn't have to have any interest in Christian missionary work, anthropology, or the hill tribes of Thailand to be riveted, but odds are you'll have a greater appreciation for all three—not to mention Berlinski's storytelling abilities—by the time you put Fieldwork down.

Synopsis:

Vivid, passionate, funny, deeply researched, and page-turningly plotted, this novel--set in northern Thailand--is a daring, spellbinding tale of anthropologists, missionaries, demon possession, sexual taboos, murder, and an obsessed young reporter named Mischa Berlinski.

Synopsis:

When his girlfriend takes a job in Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, planning to enjoy himself and work as little as possible. But one evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story: a charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead--a suicide--in the Thai prison where she was serving a life sentence for murder. Curious at first, Mischa is soon immersed in the details of her story. This brilliant, haunting novel expands into a mystery set among the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life became a battleground for the missionaries and the scientists living among them. Mischa Berlinski was born in New York in 1973. He studied classics at the University of California at Berkeley and at Columbia University. He has worked as a journalist in Thailand. He lives in Rome. A National Book Award Finalist

Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary AwardThe New York Magazine Best Debut of the YearA Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the YearA San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of the YearA Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the YearA Seattle Times Favorite Book of the YearA Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the YearA Library Journal Best Book of the YearA Kirkus Reviews Top 10 Book of the Year When his girlfriend takes a job as a schoolteacher in northern Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, working as little as possible for one of Thailand's English-language newspapers. One evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story. A charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead--a suicide--in the Thai prison where she was serving a fifty-year sentence for murder.

Motivated first by simple curiosity, then by deeper and more mysterious feelings, Mischa searches relentlessly to discover the details of Martiya's crime. His search leads him to the origins of modern anthropology--and into the family history of Martiya's victim, a brilliant young missionary whose grandparents left Oklahoma to preach the Word in the 1920s and never went back. Finally, Mischa's obsession takes him into the world of the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life becomes a battleground for two competing, and utterly American, ways of looking at the world. With its offbeat style, Berlinski's consummate fieldwork--fictional though it may be--produces an intricate whodunit, both disturbing and entertaining. Even as he confesses to feeling 'like the baton in a relay race of faulty memories and distant recollections, ' Berlinski meticulously unearths Martiya's 'good story, ' taking readers on an intoxicating journey filled with missing souls and vengeful spirits.--Terry Hong, The Washington Post

Berlinski is] a gifted storyteller delivering a simple story . . . Fieldwork is quite definitely a novel, exuberant and inventive, affectionate toward its characters but not indulgent of them. It has none of the cultivated flatness of modern reportage, and one of sparseness of line . . . It's a quirky, often brilliant debut, bounced along by limitless energy, its wry tone not detracting from its thoughtfulness.--Hilary Mantel, The New York Review of Books

With its offbeat style, Berlinski's consummate fieldwork--fictional though it may be--produces an intricate whodunit, both disturbing and entertaining. Even as he confesses to feeling 'like the baton in a relay race of faulty memories and distant recollections, ' Berlinski meticulously unearths Martiya's 'good story, ' taking readers on an intoxicating journey filled with missing souls and vengeful spirits.--Terry Hong, The Washington Post

In a thickly plotted twist on the genre of aimless Americans seeking redemption abroad, Berlinski's freelance-journalist narrator (also named Mischa Berlinski) stumbles on the case of an anthropologist who killed herself in a Thai prison while serving a sentence for her inexplicable murder of a Christian missionary. Fascinated, Berlinski investigates the missionary and the anthropologist's shared interest in the spiritual and social life of a particular Thai village, presenting an enormously detailed account of the village as if it were a history of real events . . . The book succeeds in evoking the quixotic appeal of both the anthropological and missionary enterprises--of documenting other culture and of converting them.--The New Yorker

Mischa Berlinski's first book, Fieldwork, is that rare thing--an entertainingly readable first novel of ideas . . . Berlinski's narrative is brilliantly plotted and builds to a shattering but entirely credible conclusion. There's a particular authenticity attached to the settings and to the lives of the Dyalo, though they are a fictional people . . . What sets Berlinski's book apart from others like it is its utterly contemporary evocation of a compelling old dichotomy: faith and reason. Martiya, the anthropologist, speaks for that latter tradition, the missionary Walker family for the former. Both make their cases in an entirely American idiom, and it is the great strength of Berlinski's novel that he lets them do so on an intellectually level playing field on which two competing ways of understanding the world and its people contend . . . A less interesting writer would knowingly draw the irony implicit in the shared magical thinking of both the missionaries and the tribesmen. Berlinski, however, is too interested in both viewpoints to caricature either, and the result is a genuinely unsentimental empathy that gives his narrative its real propulsive force . . . Contains] a fearless generosity of spirit that refuses to take a side . . . Fieldwork is a notable piece of first fiction--at once deeply serious about questions of consequence and refreshingly mindful of traditional storytelling conventions. If his narrative sometimes bumps against a young writer's impulse to tell you everything he knows, it's a forgivable shortcoming, particularly when stacked against this n

Synopsis:

An American expatriate in Thailand traces the complex mystery of an anthropologist who murdered a missionary ten years before. Each discovery along the way opens up to a new story in this thrilling portrait of religious, cultural, and sexual fascination.

About the Author

Mischa Berlinski was born in New York in 1973. He studied Classics at UC Berkeley and Columbia University and has worked as a journalist in Thailand. He lives in Turin, Italy.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Seana, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Seana)
Well researched; lively writing. It's about anthropology, Thailand, Christian missionaries, Berkeley, and hill tribes. Riveting.
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Nancy Oakes, January 26, 2010 (view all comments by Nancy Oakes)
In an afterword to this novel, the author notes that at first he was going to write a nonfiction book about Christian missionary work among a Thai native tribe, but then changed his mind. I'm so glad he did.

Fieldwork is one of those rare novels that comes along in which the quality of writing is simply exquisite. The story is good, well plotted and holds throughout the novel, and the thread of continuity never gets lost among the details. It's also obvious that the author did a great deal of research. His characterizations are vividly real and the story is utterly believable. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that this book was fiction.

Expat American, young journalist Mischa Berlinski (yes, he uses his own name for the main character here), has come to Thailand with his girlfriend, a schoolteacher. A local character, another expat, comes to Mischa with a story about a woman named Martiya van der Leun, who came to Thailand some years back to study a hill tribe known as the Dyalo for her PhD work in Anthropology. It turns out that Martiya had been sentenced to fifty years in Chiang Mai prison for the murder of a Christian missionary, but Martiya had committed suicide while serving her term. Berlinski wants to know how this woman went from such a promising life and career to rotting in a Thai prison, and sets out to get her story. In the course of his own research, he delves into the lives of the missionaries, the Dyalo, Martiya's family, her friends & lovers, and her co-workers to try to understand what really happened.

The book has been criticized by readers for many reasons -- the biggest one being that there's too much detail about the missionaries or about the Dyalo, and that the story gets bogged down, but I have to disagree. Just as Martiya felt she had to know things from the natives' point of view to really understand these people, the reader in this case won't really get the whole story without understanding the various factors that led up to the fateful moment that put Martiya behind the walls of Chiang Mai prison.

I loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants an extremely well-written and highly intelligent novel. Books like this one are rare, so you should grab the opportunity.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312427467
Author:
Berlinski, Mischa
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Missionaries
Subject:
Indigenous peoples
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Women anthropologists
Subject:
Thailand
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Thrillers/Suspense
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20080131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

Fieldwork Used Trade Paper
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Product details 368 pages Picador USA - English 9780312427467 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Vivid, passionate, funny, deeply researched, and page-turningly plotted, this novel--set in northern Thailand--is a daring, spellbinding tale of anthropologists, missionaries, demon possession, sexual taboos, murder, and an obsessed young reporter named Mischa Berlinski.
"Synopsis" by , When his girlfriend takes a job in Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, planning to enjoy himself and work as little as possible. But one evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story: a charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead--a suicide--in the Thai prison where she was serving a life sentence for murder. Curious at first, Mischa is soon immersed in the details of her story. This brilliant, haunting novel expands into a mystery set among the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life became a battleground for the missionaries and the scientists living among them. Mischa Berlinski was born in New York in 1973. He studied classics at the University of California at Berkeley and at Columbia University. He has worked as a journalist in Thailand. He lives in Rome. A National Book Award Finalist

Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary AwardThe New York Magazine Best Debut of the YearA Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the YearA San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of the YearA Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the YearA Seattle Times Favorite Book of the YearA Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the YearA Library Journal Best Book of the YearA Kirkus Reviews Top 10 Book of the Year When his girlfriend takes a job as a schoolteacher in northern Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, working as little as possible for one of Thailand's English-language newspapers. One evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story. A charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead--a suicide--in the Thai prison where she was serving a fifty-year sentence for murder.

Motivated first by simple curiosity, then by deeper and more mysterious feelings, Mischa searches relentlessly to discover the details of Martiya's crime. His search leads him to the origins of modern anthropology--and into the family history of Martiya's victim, a brilliant young missionary whose grandparents left Oklahoma to preach the Word in the 1920s and never went back. Finally, Mischa's obsession takes him into the world of the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life becomes a battleground for two competing, and utterly American, ways of looking at the world. With its offbeat style, Berlinski's consummate fieldwork--fictional though it may be--produces an intricate whodunit, both disturbing and entertaining. Even as he confesses to feeling 'like the baton in a relay race of faulty memories and distant recollections, ' Berlinski meticulously unearths Martiya's 'good story, ' taking readers on an intoxicating journey filled with missing souls and vengeful spirits.--Terry Hong, The Washington Post

Berlinski is] a gifted storyteller delivering a simple story . . . Fieldwork is quite definitely a novel, exuberant and inventive, affectionate toward its characters but not indulgent of them. It has none of the cultivated flatness of modern reportage, and one of sparseness of line . . . It's a quirky, often brilliant debut, bounced along by limitless energy, its wry tone not detracting from its thoughtfulness.--Hilary Mantel, The New York Review of Books

With its offbeat style, Berlinski's consummate fieldwork--fictional though it may be--produces an intricate whodunit, both disturbing and entertaining. Even as he confesses to feeling 'like the baton in a relay race of faulty memories and distant recollections, ' Berlinski meticulously unearths Martiya's 'good story, ' taking readers on an intoxicating journey filled with missing souls and vengeful spirits.--Terry Hong, The Washington Post

In a thickly plotted twist on the genre of aimless Americans seeking redemption abroad, Berlinski's freelance-journalist narrator (also named Mischa Berlinski) stumbles on the case of an anthropologist who killed herself in a Thai prison while serving a sentence for her inexplicable murder of a Christian missionary. Fascinated, Berlinski investigates the missionary and the anthropologist's shared interest in the spiritual and social life of a particular Thai village, presenting an enormously detailed account of the village as if it were a history of real events . . . The book succeeds in evoking the quixotic appeal of both the anthropological and missionary enterprises--of documenting other culture and of converting them.--The New Yorker

Mischa Berlinski's first book, Fieldwork, is that rare thing--an entertainingly readable first novel of ideas . . . Berlinski's narrative is brilliantly plotted and builds to a shattering but entirely credible conclusion. There's a particular authenticity attached to the settings and to the lives of the Dyalo, though they are a fictional people . . . What sets Berlinski's book apart from others like it is its utterly contemporary evocation of a compelling old dichotomy: faith and reason. Martiya, the anthropologist, speaks for that latter tradition, the missionary Walker family for the former. Both make their cases in an entirely American idiom, and it is the great strength of Berlinski's novel that he lets them do so on an intellectually level playing field on which two competing ways of understanding the world and its people contend . . . A less interesting writer would knowingly draw the irony implicit in the shared magical thinking of both the missionaries and the tribesmen. Berlinski, however, is too interested in both viewpoints to caricature either, and the result is a genuinely unsentimental empathy that gives his narrative its real propulsive force . . . Contains] a fearless generosity of spirit that refuses to take a side . . . Fieldwork is a notable piece of first fiction--at once deeply serious about questions of consequence and refreshingly mindful of traditional storytelling conventions. If his narrative sometimes bumps against a young writer's impulse to tell you everything he knows, it's a forgivable shortcoming, particularly when stacked against this n

"Synopsis" by ,
An American expatriate in Thailand traces the complex mystery of an anthropologist who murdered a missionary ten years before. Each discovery along the way opens up to a new story in this thrilling portrait of religious, cultural, and sexual fascination.

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