Monday, July 9, 2012

Midnight in Peking by Paul French



31. Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
by Paul French
nonfiction, 2012
sixth book for the Dewey Decimal Challenge 2012
finished 6/1/12



You may have come upon those markers on roadsides which pay tribute to someone who has died there. I usually see a cross, and flowers in season. Unconsciously, I put my hand to my heart, and feel such sadness for the person's family and friends, the ones who put up the memorial.

Well, this book feels like one of those markers. The author didn't know the young woman who died, but with this book he is memorializing her. Before Midnight in Peking, there weren't many people who had been thinking about Pamela Werner since she was murdered in January 1937. Now that has been remedied. Now we know, we remember, we care. That's just what the author set out to do.

I first heard of the book on the Diane Rehm show in April, a show you may listen to here. I went right to Barnes & Noble online and ordered it. This is an exceptional story, told in an interesting, most engaging way. It isn't an easy book to read, but it is excellent nonetheless. I can't praise it highly enough.

I came upon this video on the website for the book. How wonderful that we can hear the author tell of his book while walking in the very area where it took place.

19 comments:

  1. Her own father was a suspect?! I've seen the book on the shelves at work, but knew nothing about it. Thanks for this review, Nan. I'm adding it to my list. I may listen to the audio version, if it's available through my library system.

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    1. It is an amazing, amazing book. The advantage of the print version is the photographs. I looked at them very often as I read along.

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  2. The author is so passionate about his subject, which really draws one into the whole story. Thinking of her father being a suspect, I am trying to imagine how this must have been for her mother.

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    1. Her mother had died many years earlier. I hope you can read it. I think you'll like it.

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  3. I thought it was a fascinating look at a time period and culture that disappeared so quickly after the murder when the Japanese finally invaded. French did an outstanding job telling Pamela's story, and like you, my heart ached for the father who pursued the case with such determination.

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    1. It really was an excellent portrayal of the time, the place, and the people.

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  4. I'm impressed with how much this book made an impact on you. Here's Mine

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  5. Was able to order this from our local library and hope to read it soon. You so often suggest books I haven't read. thanks!

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  6. Hi Nan! Thanks for posting about this book....I did not know about it and will definitely put it on my TBR list. By the way, the lettuce in your blog header is beautiful!!!

    Sending love...

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    1. So good to see you! The lettuce is delish!

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  7. I will have to get this, it sounds so interesting. My daughter is interested in all things Chinese and will probably want to read it, too. It sounds fascinating.

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  8. This book sounds amazing! I'm going to get a copy of this once my book-buying ban is over. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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    1. Is there an opposite to a book-buying ban? Because that's what I've been on this year. :<)
      This is a great book, and he's a very good writer.

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  9. Lovely review, Nan. And I especially loved what you said about putting your hand to your heart. Yes, Midnight in Peking made me feel that way too! Ant BTW - What a great picture of an undoubtedly great dog! :))

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    1. Yes, it is just instinctual now. I don't even think about it. I wonder every time whose child it was.
      Sadie says thank you!

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  10. Hi Nan
    One has to feel sympathy for the parent of a murdered child, but I read Werner's archived letters and sadly they do not put him in a good light. I thought you may be interested in looking at this: www.pamelawernermurder.com, as it puts the crime into context.
    It also questions where DID Paul french get his information, why did he change key dates, why did he feel a need to "sex-up" Pamela?
    As a woman you may be interested to read Paul french's interview on the "Sources in detail" page.
    best wishes
    EC

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.