The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

What would the world do without tea'

Contemporary australian short stories (East-West, Rs 140) edited by Santosh K. Sareen is an interesting collection of short fiction reflecting the variety of historical and ethnic experiences comprising the Australian identity. There is a multitude of voices — aboriginal, Anglo-Celtic, immigrant, female — and some experimentation with the use of myth and linguistic registers. Here is David Malouf in “Bad Blood”: “Brisbane is a city of strict conventions and many churches, but subtropical, steamy. Shoes in a cupboard grow mould in the wet months, and on the quiet surface of things there are bubbles that explode in the heat and give off odours of corruption; everything softens and rots.”

The gunpowder gardens: Travels through india and china in search of tea (Penguin, £ 4.99) by Jason Goodwin follows the origins of tea, its use, influence and importance, from the Canton factories through the establishment of British India and the Opium Wars. This is an entertaining book that wears its considerable learning lightly, combining social history and travel-writing with a wonderful tale of two grandmothers who spent their lives in India and China. This is also a book about Englishness, having as one of its epigraphs Sidney Smith’s “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea' How did it exist' I am glad I was not born before tea.”

The mind in the making (Rupa, Rs 150) by James Harvey Robinson is in the “Thinker’s Library” series with an introduction by H.G. Wells. It is a book about the human mind, a history of human intelligence and beliefs. Wells links it to the writings of William James and Huxley. Robinson dwells on the “savage mind” as well as the Greek thinkers, the medieval scholastics and the scientific revolution.

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