10.19.2014

Book Review: While the Gods Were Sleeping

While the Gods Were Sleeping by Elizabeth Enslin

I was sent a review copy of this title by the lovely folks at FSB, which I volunteered to read because of my longtime fascination with the corner of the world housing Tibet, Nepal, China, India and the whole Himalayan continent.

(Want a great fix? Watch Michael Palin's "Himalaya" series - amazing!)

This memoir is about Enslin's marriage to a Nepalese man and her eventual settling in Nepal at his family's home. I was looking forward to hearing about daily life in Nepal, the people she meets, and how her clash of cultures would work despite being with the man she loved. However, a couple of things surprised me about this title. One, it took place during the 1980s, which casts a fairly distant light in today's world (I thought it was a more modern retelling). Two, so much of this title read like a paper due for a college course - heavy on the anthropological notes and socio-political system in place at the time, and light on the day-to-day life, the emotion, or the clashing of cultures that I think I was searching for.

I must admit, I valiantly tried to read each word, but by about halfway through, when I had spent weeks reading things other than this title about which I was so excited, I had to admit defeat. Though the topic still fascinates me, this memoir was less a woman's "stranger in a strange land" story and more a dry retelling of her time there through her extremely anthropological microscope. 

I was sad to see there was no "how everyone turned out" epilogue to the memoir, since it took place so many years ago (Enslin lived there for 6 years before returning to the US). 

This is a deeply detailed, intelligent look at 1980s Nepal through the lens of anthropology and politics - just because it wasn't for me doesn't mean it won't be for you!