Writing in luminous prose, Liza Dalby, acclaimed author of Geisha and The Tale of Murasaki, brings us this elegant and unique year’s journal a brilliant mosaic that is at once a candid memoir, a gardener’s diary, and an enlightening excursion through cultures east and west. Structured according to the seasonal units of an ancient Chinese almanac, East Wind Melts the Ice is made up of 72 short chapters that can be read straight through or dipped into at random. In the essays, Dalby transports us from her Berkeley garden to the streets of Kyoto, to Imperial China, to the sea cliffs of Northern California, and to points beyond. Throughout these journeys, Dalby weaves her memories of living in Japan and becoming the first and only non-Japanese geisha, her observations on the recurring phenomena of the natural world, and meditations on the cultural aesthetics of Japan, China, and California. She illuminates everyday life as well, in stories of keeping a pet butterfly, roasting rice cakes with her children, watching whales, and pampering worms to make compost. In the manner of the Japanese personal poetic essay, this vibrant work comprises 72 windows on a life lived between cultures, and the result is a wonderfully engaging read.
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A Truly Unique Journey
I certainly would listen to East Wind Melts the Ice again, and indeed have already re-listened to several of my favourite chapters. One of the joys of this book is that each of its 72 sections provides a satisfying experience lasting no longer than five or ten minutes, and yet the book adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Every few minutes, this book reveals a fact, story or observation of note, but over the course of ten hours' material, it becomes a fascinating account not just of seasons, nature and cultures, but a deeply personal self-portrait of the author herself. Everything in this book, from its formal structure to its subject matter to its linguistic style, is several times more unexpected, imaginative and unique than almost any book, fiction or non-fiction, that I have read in the past year.
I have never listened to any of Liza Dalby's books before, but having listened to East Wind... I feel as if I know her as well if not better than many of my neighbours, so would very much like to explore her work further.
Jane Bradley appears to be a relatively new reader for Audible, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for her future readings. Bradley manages quite a difficult task with ease: her vocal performance, like the book, is soothing and mellow without ever straying into blandness.
There is a sparkle and wit behind her performance of some of the book's quirkier passages, such as the description of one male sheep impregnating a whole flock on a farm belonging to the Dalby's friend. And her delivery of the Japanese vocabulary and haiku that pepper the book is similarly effortless and effective (at least to these western ears!)
Bradley's unintimidating, personable performance makes listening to this book similar to the experience of sharing a new find with a friend.
There is quite simply too much in this book to absorb in one sitting. Unless you are going on a long car journey, I would advise listening a few chapters an evening, rounding off your day with a trip into a fascinating, occasionally bizarre book.
Feeling like an Information sponge
I have already recommended The audio book of East Wind Melts the Ice. to my colleagues because it is a great source when researching or to be inspired, i also recommended the audiobook to my aunt because she enjoys listening to audiobooks and of the poetic literature about our common nature.
the book is filled with knowledge! I appreciate the information about nature- the book includes history and the view points of nature through the lense of Japanese philosophy. the author poetically speaks to your mind- i enjoyed listening to the author's poetic expression, i enjoy indulging in the information about elements of nature (such as cherry blossom tres, butterflies, lighting, sparrow,etc.
The voice of Jane Bradley, i could definatly sense commitment throughtout the journey. i had times when i had to remind myself it is not the voice of the author! The voice sparked curiosity- Listening rather than reading allowed me to gain knowledge while carrying on with my daily life. i feel as thought i was taken on a journey - and the connection between me and the text was the voice. whenever I am cleaning the room, washing dishes, or sitting on the couch , or on some inspring parts such as when the author would be talking about the characteristics about a certain element- I could stop and listen. the first day i purchased the Audiobook, i fell asleep listening and woke up listening.
I laughed at some of the memories of the author- for some reason i was surprised by the choices- for an example when the author said she chased a sheep once, i laughed by the lightness- but her opinions and i find her expressions brave. the way she delves into her thoughts I felt like I got to know her personality. The information I inmensly gained about a subject allowed me to connect with my own understanding of a subject, and so now I can see the subject with appreciation. This would not happened without the lighter aspects of the large amount of information.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and information, as well as opinions, and thank you for expanding the possibilities of a written text.