the author describe his book?
A coming-of-age story set in
modern day China centering on the friendship between an American
and a Chinese boy who meet while training with Beijings
Junior National Tennis Team.
Chase Robertson arrives in Beijing
as a fourteen-year-old boy still troubled by the recent death
of his older brother. He discovers a country in transition; a
society in which the dual systems of Communist Era state control
and an emerging entrepreneurial culture exist in paradox.
A top ranked junior tennis player
in the U.S., Chase joins the practices of the Beijing National
Junior Tennis Team and is immersed in the brutal, cut-throat
world of Chinese sport. It is a world in which gifted children
are selected at the ages of six or seven for specialized sport
schools where they devote their entire youth to the pursuit of
athletic excellence and are paid as professionals by the state.
Athletes find themselves compelled to do anything possible to
succeedright or wrong. Those who fail to reach the pinnacle
are cast aside and are left facing a desperate future without
In China, Chase gains access
to a culture rarely open to Westerners, and soon finds himself
caught up in secrets. When his closest friend and teammate turns
to him for help, Chase is faced with the dilemma of what to do
when friendship, rules, and morals are in conflict.
A big-hearted debut, Beautiful
Country explores a friendship against the backdrop of a quickly
others describe his book?
Dosh writes in BeijingReview.com.com
Dosh quotes Thornton, "The
narrator of the book is a character similar to me. He is a 14-year-old
American playing tennis within the Chinese state tennis system.
While there, he befriends one of the players on the Chinese team
who is exceptionally gifted, very independent and somewhat rebels
against the limits and rigid structure of the system. I went
to China with a blank slate, with no expectations and ready to
take it all in," Thornton said. "I looked for the similarities,
not the differences, and one thing I noticed with the boys I
played tennis with who were 14 and 15 [years old] is that we
shared a lot. I think many cultural differences that people try
to createif you don't look for themdon't exist."
The novel was first published
in Mandarin, to great critical acclaim from the Chinese press.
Kai-fu Lee, Founding President of Google China and CEO of Innovation
Works, commented, "This is a beautiful novel. The author's
unique perspective, notably on the struggle and destiny of Chinese
adolescents, really makes this a worthwhile read for young Chinese."
Ling-Mei Wong writes
America is literally translated
as beautiful country in Chinese. And yet, while the
books title refers to America, its China that fills
every page, starting from the beginning when the protagonist,
Chase Robertson, is shipped off to Beijing after his brother
Tom overdoses on ecstasy. There, Chase gradually begins to confront
stereotypes about China and himself. Thornton himself was an
internationally ranked junior tennis player who lived in Beijing
as a teenager, and as such seasons his novel with authentic observations.
Chase develops a wracking cough
from Beijings pollution and finds the tennis training facilities
equipped with poorly maintained courts, old balls with no bounce
and ancient rackets. While Chase enjoyed coaching from a former
Scandinavian tennis pro in America, his Chinese teammates learn
the sport from a former volleyball player who knows nothing about
tennis. The Chinese boys were selected at ages seven or eight
for a chance to be career athletes, and have been left to fend
for themselves in this cutthroat arena ever since. Should they
survive annual cuts, they would represent Beijing at the National
Games a domestic Olympics every four years against
The lucky ones were the
players who were cut when they were still young enough to learn
to do something else, Thornton wrote.
were given one opportunity, just one. It was theirs to manage
and there was no one to help them.
avoids the patronizing trope of a white messiah redeeming Chinese
yokels. Instead, Chase is a brat who is humbled by his Chinese
teammates and learns to appreciate his good fortune. Thornton
may hail from the West, but he captures Chinas desperate
yearning for a better life in his searing novel.
I get out of this book?
I liked "Beautiful Country"
the same way I like historical novels. They give me the best
of two worlds - facts and fantasy, although this author is obviously
writing from personal experience rather than research like it's
usually done in historical fiction. What made it hard for me
to put this book down was the way Thornton weaved tennis into
the overall theme of describing his travels through a beautiful
but very challenging country: China.
For someone like me who has never
had the chance to travel to China, this book offers a seemingly
never ending stream of information about the country, its people,
the traffic, the transportation system, the smog (!) and the
customs as they relate to doing business with foreigners (the
main character's dad). This is such a foreign yet fascinating
world for me, the book made me want to travel there despite the
pollution in major population areas.
The tennis side of the book is
what made me read it in the first place, of course. And, again,
I found the way the author describes the Chinese system of generating
star athletes fascinating. But I found it also shocking to read
the conditions young tennis hopefuls have to practise under and
the careless and almost ruthlessness way the system treats the
ones who do not make the cut. Eye opening, to say the least.
No wonder so many western tennis professionals think there is
great potential for them and their proven methods of finding,
developing and coaching talent in China.
I can recommend reading "Beautiful
Country" to everyone interested in the country China. But
you don't have to be a tennis player to necessarily like the
book. If you happen to be a tennis player, bingo! You have another
reason to read it. I enjoyed it immensely.