Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost

Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten TroostI read this book as part of the Book Read ‘Round the World event, organised by Carin from A Little Bookish. I was the fourth person to read it, after Carin, Carly and Carina, and the book was still in great condition.

Lost on Planet China: What it is about

Maarten Troost, a Netherlands-born Canadian living in the USA, goes on a trip to China. Initially he feels totally at a loss in this very foreign country where few people speak English while he can’t speak or read Chinese, and where his preconceptions turn out to be quite incorrect.

He had not expected the constant fog, from air pollution, or how busy it would be (everywhere!). A foreigner is treated as a source of extra (overpriced) income and any polite queuing for taxis or tickets is non-existent.

He travels through quite a large part of China, and also visits Tibet, by various means of transport.

After some time, he starts to feel more at home and learns to deal with the Chinese and their way of treating foreigners.

Lost on Planet China: What I thought

Although I don’t have a particular interest in China, I very much enjoyed reading this funny travelogue about China.

The writer is quite an experienced traveler, but initially he felt as lost in China as I imagine I would be. I liked the way he described the cities he was in: the crowds, the air pollution and the size (we’re talking big, big cities!).

I also very much enjoyed his attempts at ordering food that he would be happy to eat. He did manage, by accident, to order live squid (I think it was) and jelly fish. Which he then graciously ate.

While the (historical) background information about China and the places he went to was interesting, I much more enjoyed the descriptions of his interactions with the people.

He is not a great fan of travel groups, and I found him a bit snobby about this. However, he does acknowledge this himself and he realizes that not everyone would want to travel solo through China. He actually finds that by joining groups every now and then, he may see some (touristic) sites that he otherwise would have found hard to get to.

If you want to experience China without actually going there, this seems a great book. It is funny too, and the only complaint I have is that there aren’t any photographs. I would have loved to see a picture of some of the places he went to.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book: for the Book Read ‘Round the World event, from Carina in Canada

I read this in: English, the original language

About Judith
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com and bookhelpline.nl. We edit books and articles for independent writers.

14 Responses to Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost

  1. I am fascinated by China, so much that I went there on holiday in 2004 (Beijing and Shanghai). I would love to explore more of the country and can completely understand how daunting some of these experiences could be as even in the 2 cities were in (which are no strangers to tourists) we had some hairy moments in which neither party could understand the other and we got lost.

    Sounds like a book I’d enjoy.

  2. Tes says:

    I think I am going to have fun with this book. I love traveling with the stories in the book. It sounds really fun. Thanks for the review, Judith!

  3. Sounds like a fun, interesting book! I’ve read one other by him – “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” where he talks about living on a Pacific Atoll… he’s got quite a sense of humor, and an easy way to convey histories. I may have to check this book out!

  4. Carin B. says:

    I like your review, Judith! I had a good time reading the book as well. I think I got what he was saying about touristy groups (although if I went to China, I would most likely go in an organized group based on the things he wrote) because you are less likely to make an effort with the locals and discover things that are not on the itinerary. It limits how much you can actually connect with the country. I definitely want to read his other books because I had so much fun reading this one. I’m glad you liked it too! Thanks for participating in the event! 🙂

    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks for running the event, Carin! It was a book that I hadn’t come across and I might not have read it otherwise.

      I agree with you: I would go with an organised group to a country so foreign to my own. I would feel so lost if I didn’t, it would probably spoil my holidays. It’s true that on your own you make more contact with the locals and off-itinerary places but even so… 🙂

  5. Suzanne says:

    I agree that photos would have added to the book, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I would like to visit China (and India for that matter) but I know that I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book — nice review of it.

  6. Sounds like a great example of good literary non-fiction, huh? That’s surprising that they didn’t include any photographs! That just enhances the reading experience, especially when it’s a travelogue!

  7. gnoegnoe says:

    Thanks for sharing Judith! Like I said before, I was really curious about this book because I gave it as a present to friend — I’m expecting her back from China next month. At least I hope so 😉

    Did you by any chance see last night’s documentary “The Last Train Home“?

    I recorded it; will watch it some other day.

    • leeswammes says:

      It’s a nice book, Gnoe, I’m sure your friend will have enjoyed it, especially since she went to China herself.

      I didn’t watch The Last Train Home. Thanks for the link, I’ll see what it’s about.

  8. Pingback: Thoughts on “Lost on Planet China” by J. Maarten Troost (Audiobook) | Erin Reads

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