Sunday, June 18, 2006


There's a lot of overused words in the book reviewing trade but I'm going to use some of them here: inspiring, insightful, courageous, gracious, moving.
Claire Scobie set out to Tibet for the first time in search of a rare flower and, on that adventure into the wilds, she met Ani - a Tibetan nun of unusual character - and they became friends. Thus was Claire drawn back again and again and again to return - to find Ani and to witness, at first hand, the rapid and worrying changes brought about to this sacred land by the Chinese annexation. On each trip, she takes us into a deeper level of her Tibet experience, drawing the reader into temples and brothels, along breathless mountain trails in the high mountains, into a room with the Dalai Lama.
She literally risks life and limb to bring us these stories and insights, coming within a hair's breadth of being arrested and imprisoned by the Chinese Military Police, suffering regular bouts of sickness. She shares her despairs and elations, her misgivings, her love affair, in such an honest and open manner, in an unforced and natural voice, that promotes instant indentification. Her developing friendship with Ani is the thread that holds the narrative together and this also is beautifully rendered. The descriptions of the giant skies, the sheer wonder and beauty of the sacred mountains, is breathtaking. There are some wonderful ancient spiritual thoughts and ideas here alongside some tough, hard-edged contemporary journalism of the classic kind. It is a first-hand account of one of the spiritual centres of the world being overwhelmed by the forces of modern Chinese society, a process accelerated recently by the opening of the China-Tibet railway. This certainly must be one of the best introductory works for a general reader seeking to really understand what is really happening in modern-day Tibet. This book is a considerable and hard-won achievement.
['Last Seen in Lhasa' by Claire Scobie. Rider Books]
Declaring An Interest: It is only fair to say and also important to say that I am a long-time friend of the author and am mentioned in the personal acknowledgements. This, you might be tempted to say, weakens the force of my review. The point is this: it's always difficult when a friend gives you a book of theirs to read. The dread is that it's not going to be very good and that you are going to have to find some polite way of dealing with it. I am relieved and happy to be able to say this book is truly splendid.
Now find out more about what's going on inTIBET here:
Free Tibet Campaign:
Tibet Government in Exile:
Tibet Online:
International Campaign for Tibet:
The Central Tibetan Administration:

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