By S. Bernard Thomas
BERKELEY: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, 1996 XVIII + 416 PAGES
To be successful, a biography must make the reader care about the subject. Whether people are depicted as angels, devils, gods or sinners, the reader must come to care passionately about them and what they do or what happens to them in the course of their lives. Some subjects loom large on the historic stage and by this means are an easy subject to attract the attention of the reader. The names are surrounded in mystery, intrigue, or controversy, and the reader is drawn to follow their stories. For lesser-known individuals, the author must provide the interest to carry the reader through. The title of this book comes from a remark in Edgar Snow’s diary. “However well I readjust myself to life in America, my youth, the best part of it, lies ever in the Orient. This was the season of high adventure, experience, and unusual thrills” (p. 13). Although the author provides a great deal of information about Snow, he does not quite engender the excitement of the title, and this alone detracts from the book as something to recommend to secondary-level readers.