Books

Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land by Rory MacLean (HarperCollins, pounds 16.99)

On discovering a beautiful, yet ancient Burmese basket in the British Museum, Rory MacLean falls into a reverie of his accidental visit to the intoxicating country 10 years earlier. Memories unleashed, MacLean, with his wife Katrin, begins a bizarre quest around Burma with the goal of finding an identical basket himself.

What follows is, thankfully, not a travelling Challenge Anneka, but a moving tale of the Burmese people that the couple meet as they follow up various dead-end suggestions.

MacLean's prose shifts between past and present, truth and, frequently, fiction as he weaves in the stories of four ordinary Burmese women and their extraordinary bravery. His talent lies in his ability to picture, in exquisite detail, an individual life, then pan-out in an almost filmic manner to acknowledge their place in the wider newsworthy events of their country's history.

After reading Under the Dragon, one can never again see Burma's masses as faceless hordes. MacLean shows Burma to be a country of repression and fear, but also one of great individual kindness and passion.

MacLean's compelling book is as finely crafted as we imagine the intriguing museum basket to be.

Rating 8/10

Tennessee Music by Peter Coats Zimmerman (Odyssey, pounds 15.95)

Home of Elvis, Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry and . . umm. . . Parton's Eastern theme park, Dollywood, Tennessee is the state that launched a thousand careers.

Traipsing through the region's tangled musical roots is Peter Coats Zimmerman, a Tennessee born and bred, journalist and music enthusiast. Zimmerman's guide to the region and its musical development is enjoyable, yet comprehensive - he defines the genres (blues, country, soul...) without attempting to pigeon-hole the greats and gives an extensive run-down on the interesting areas of Tennessee.

By peppering the information with anecdotes and many old or rarely seen photographs and caricatures, he gives the reader a real flavour of the region, while lightening the reading load.

Much needed emphasis is placed on the social and economical assets of the region. Zimmerman also includes invaluable lists of attractions, events, shops, restaurants and hotels, a suitable discography and easy to read fold-out maps. This makes Tennessee Music an essential for all travellers and devotees fascinated by the development of music in this prolific area of America.

Rating 7/10

Shadows and Wind by Robert Templer (Little, Brown, pounds 18.99)

Robert Templer, too young to have had direct experience of the Vietnam war, found that his ideas of Vietnam were, like those of most westerners, formed by American war movies and books.

In 1990, he went to Vietnam as a foreign correspondent for a French news agency and found a country where war had already become part of history. In his book, Shadows and Wind, Templer seeks to bridge the gap between nostalgic fantasy and the reality of contemporary Vietnamese life.

He explores the experience of modern Vietnamese people - a relatively uncharted area - and looks at the issues facing government and people. A shaky economy, an intolerance of anti-government voices and official corruption loom large in his findings, and Templer foresees the growing entrepreneurial culture offering more attractions to new generations than Communism.

Rating 7/10

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering