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Synopsis

Priscilla Wong had had six boyfriends. Because she did not marry the first or second, her classmates called her a prostitute. Yet she was still a virgin. A virgin whore. Perhaps the contradiction could only exist in China. I grew fond of the idea, for it seemed a perfect caricature of China as a whole - rich history coexisting with drab modernity, corruption with innocence, membership of the nuclear club while burdened with poverty. Clive Leatherdale found himself caught up in the student uprisings that climaxed with the Tiananmen massacre. His travels and traumas are detailed in this entertaining, and often biting, account of China in 1989 and 1990. Review: Perhaps its the friction between his sense of where he is and where he would rather be that makes The Virgin Whore and Other Chinese Characters so good. He is best at trying to get along with people, and his attempt to unpick the Chinese character manages to be comic without being condescending. The Independent on Sunday.

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