Something Like a House: A Novel
|Publisher:||Welcome Rain Publishers|
This title is the extraordinary story of James Stuart Fraser, a British soldier who deserts during the Korean War, is captured and sent to live among the Miao, a minority tribe in the highlands of Communist China.
Journalist Sid Smith’s debut novel is a brave excursion into little-known and alien territory. Armed with stocks of historical, political and medical information, he has somehow made the imaginative leap into a realm few understand: the sealed-off world of China during the Cultural Revolution.
James Stuart Fraser, a private in the British Army, deserts and ends up spending 35 years “among the unshiftable Chinese”. Many of those years are spent in the wretched poverty of a village of the despised Miao people, where life revolves around the solitary buffalo. The incredible tedium of Fraser’s rural subsistence (existence is too strong a term) is evoked in a taut prose, filled with enthralling and convincing detail.
However, as time passes Fraser grows aware of the pseudo-academic work going on at the clinic, where eugenicists wreak havoc with village life in their search for the scientific “truth” of race. As years suddenly pass in a paragraph, the pace races unannounced to thriller speed and the carefully wrought momentum Smith had achieved is lost. Notwithstanding, Smith has an important story to tell, and at its best, Something Like A House is very good indeed. —Alan Stewart