A Single Pebble

John Hersey

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A Single Pebble

A Single Pebble A young American engineer sent to China to inspect the unruly Yangtze River travels up through the river s gorges searching for dam sites Pulled on a junk hauled by forty odd trackers he is carried

  • Title: A Single Pebble
  • Author: John Hersey
  • ISBN: 9780394756974
  • Page: 183
  • Format: Paperback
  • A young American engineer sent to China to inspect the unruly Yangtze River travels up through the river s gorges searching for dam sites Pulled on a junk hauled by forty odd trackers, he is carried, too, into the settled, ancient way of life of the people of the Yangtze until the interplay of his life with theirs comes to a dramatic climax.

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      Posted by:John Hersey
      Published :2018-06-09T22:36:05+00:00

    One thought on “A Single Pebble

    1. Judy on said:

      John Hersey is a good writer. He creates characters well, his stories move along with great energy and he makes a reader care deeply about what goes on. But sometimes, despite all those qualities, he just misses. This is one of those times. A young American engineer has been sent to China in the 1920s to inspect the Yangtze River for possible locations on which to build a dam. He travels up that unpredictable and powerful river on a junk, through gorges, rapids and whirlpools. Surrounded by the [...]

    2. Pascale on said:

      This novella is absolutely gripping. It tells the story of a 24-year old American engineer who sets off to explore the Yangtze in order to draft plans for a major dam - an undertaking which, as we now know, wasn't actually completed until 2008, nearly a century after the events imagined by Hersey. The young man travels up river on a junk owned by Old Big, an experienced mariner who has had his share of misfortunes, and in fact lost a boat on a previous journey. Old Big is married to Su-ling, a p [...]

    3. Diane on said:

      I originally read this book in about 1960 but it is cited by many of the authors of books on China that I have recently read. I liked it very much as a metaphor for the cultural, social, political clashes and changes awaiting China as it entered the world scene. I particularly liked the idea us all trying to navigate up a huge river with steep massive gorges and impossible rapids using old techniques and wondering about how new technologies might help or might not and even more difficult being t [...]

    4. Janet Aileen on said:

      This is a deceptively simple story about a journey up the Yangtze River in a junk. In the hands of John Hersey, it becomes a small masterpiece. With clear, concise prose, he captures the drama in the lives of the river workers and their daily challenges. For me, it was a memorable journey.

    5. Mark on said:

      Exquisitely done. This book still makes me think, many years after reading it, how significant and insignificant each of our lives can be, depending on perspective.

    6. David on said:

      Eh, another white guy decides it would have been better not to mess around with the lives of other people. Kind of obvious from the start and not much else to it. Decent and with good details, but kind of thin overall.

    7. Christine Schmidt on said:

      for Book Club. Just research any visual footage of trying to get a Chinese junk up the Yangtse rapids.

    8. Samuel on said:

      This was one of two books gifted to me on my wedding day from one of my all-time best friends: Tony Mercer (who actually officiated our ring ceremony). His inscription indicated that he thought I'd enjoy John Hersey's classic tale about twentieth-century tensions of West vs. East and modernity vs. tradition particularly given my two years as a missionary in southeast Asia. Indeed, he was correct. Here is a passage from the book that resonates almost perfectly with my feelings at the end of my tw [...]

    9. Nancy on said:

      A young American engineer is sent to China in the 1950's to explore the possibility of building a dam on the Yangtze river. He takes a trip on a junk to check out building sites, thinking in theory and ending in the reality of life and death. Some of the prose is wonderful, some a little more technical than I wanted. But you definitely get a feel for time and place and attitude. Hersey's background is that of a journalist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) and that comes through in his writing. It is s [...]

    10. Andrew on said:

      The last couple of books I have read by John Hersey were both disappointments, really not his best stuff. But with A Single Pebble he again is lyrical and clear, subtle and bold in his writing. It was a really good book, and I would really recommend it.A Single Pebble tells the story of an American engineer who goes to China in the 1920s to figure out how to dam up the Yangtze River. He is the narrator of his own story, told from a large span of years, he is old now. And the sense of his nostalg [...]

    11. John on said:

      Question: When is a novel not a novel? Answer: When it's a travelogue.This little book, about a the journey of a western engineer up the Yangtze, pre-Three Gorges Dam Project, has me wondering at every page, why is this a novel? It reads like travel-writing: it's obviously based on a trip the author made, it unfolds at the pace of the trip, and it also has elements of self-descovery associated with the genre. So, as it's actually a novel, what's real, and what isn't? And does that matter? (Too m [...]

    12. Carole on said:

      This is a lovely book. A simple and brief story, told in hindsight by an engineer sent as a young man to China in the 1920's to identify a potential site for a dam to be built by his American firm. Journeying up the Yangtze River, he finds himself on a primitive vessel hauled by hand up river by forty "trackers" to the Three Gorges. The men stoically pit their strength pulling the junk with bamboo ropes against the raging river in a terrifying scenario that has been unchanged for centuries. Ther [...]

    13. Beckbunch on said:

      I read this because it was in the classics section at the library and because the story takes place in China. I love China, so the book already had that going for it. I wanted to like it. I really did. I just wasn't ever caught up in the story or the writing. It didn't offend me in any way and I didn't think it was poorly written, it just was rather blah for me. And the funny thing is, this wasn't even the book I intended to read in the first place! I got "A Single Pebble" and the book "The Sand [...]

    14. Mrs. Dalton on said:

      This was a quick and interesting read about an American engineer who goes to China to study the great river in order to propose the building of a dam. He journeys up river on a junk ship and the entire tale encompasses this journey, including the things he sees on the river and the interactions with the Chinese who work the boat. I must be completely honest; I couldn't visualize most of the "boat stuff." I still don't know who/what "trackers" are or what their job is. I couldn't even figure out [...]

    15. retronerdSteinkuehler on said:

      This is my Go To book when I need a shot of good writing and a tale of enchantment. Dose one need to have traveled China to love this book? No. I read it before I went. I read it after I returned. I read it occasionally to remind myself that there is great literature 'out there' that will never change. But the gorges are no more and the vision that young engineer was sent to investigate is there today. From 1956 to today. This is a novel for all times.

    16. Mollie *scoutrmom* on said:

      The story may have been riveting in its day, but as it was set nearly 90 years ago and written in the 1950's, I found little of relevance in the half I did read and gave it up as not of worth to today's reader.The writing quality is excellent, and I would suggest anyone who wishes to try this author to read Hiroshima.

    17. Jill on said:

      John Hersey is a very good writer. I like his description and his characterization. It didn't take long for me to be caught up in this story and I read it to the end very quickly. Mr. Hersey is not Chinese, but I felt that what he wrote about China and his Chinese characters rang true. This is an excellent portrayal of the clash between cultures where in the author does not take a side. I have read this book twice and recommended it to my readers group.

    18. Mohi on said:

      Compelling fiction travel story about an American prospector surveying the Yangtze to build give recommendations on where to build a dam. The book explores the idea of pastoral utopia and how it clashes with the harsh reality of the urban dog-eat-dog struggle. Ending was a bit too reminiscent of David Copperfield for my tastes, however.

    19. Lisa on said:

      Great story about an engineer travelling up the Yangtze with a traditional Chinese boat crew. The engineer is considering sites for a dam which would essentially change the traditional way of life of everyone on the boat with him. Interesting to think of the challenges to modernizing a way of life that is centuries old.

    20. Megan on said:

      1920s a young american engineer goes up the Great River of China on a little junk, is surprised by how much he is changed by the journeyd how little everything else on the river has changed over the millenia"could his dam bridge millenia in a moment?" Interesting with some vivid description but none of the characters grabbed me in particular

    21. Ann on said:

      Gosh, I wish the cover of mine looked so nice. I have an old, old Bantam edition. It's so old it doesn't have an isbn! Still, the story is the important thing, and this promises to be an interesting one.

    22. Tyler on said:

      A good book, moves briskly along and doesn't overstay its welcome but ultimately didn't really grab me in any meaningful way either. Like I said, it's good, but it hardly made an impact on me. Regardless, it's solid.

    23. Edward on said:

      A very nice story of west meets east on the Yangtze River. A short novel that contrasts what's important in the eyes of a young westerner in the 1920's against that of the Chinese people who work the river.

    24. Andrew 'Smitty' Smith on said:

      This is perhaps the worst book that I have ever read. I don't take that statement lightly either. I would rather imitate Oedipus Rex and gouge my eyes out with a golden broach than read this work again.

    25. Darlene on said:

      Hersey's 1956 concise novel pits Western engineering against Chinese culture on the Yangtze River, and presents a poignant quandary foreshadowing the Three Gorges Dam Project begun in 1993. It gave an excellent picture of the river trackers' harsh but prideful laboring conditions.

    26. Linda on said:

      A young American engineer travels up the Yangtze River looking for a place to build a dam and is faced with a clash between his culture and that of the Chinese.

    27. Roger on said:

      One of a kind portrait of a country, a person's growth and realizations and the fickle complexity of understanding the unknown!!

    28. Zack Hersh on said:

      It doesn't have all that interesting of a plot, it all sort of seems blend together in this one big mass of a boat on a river with small character relationship changes every once and a while.

    29. Tim on said:

      A short, poignant, symbolic novel about, to put it very generally, the clash of Western and Chinese culture.

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