Three Cups of Tea

Not talking about my favourite drink here. Talking about the alleged autobiographical work of non-fiction by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. 

I struggled to finish it. Why, when life is short and books are plentiful did I finish it?

I kinda felt I had to. Greg Mortenson, the person this book is about (he is down as the author but most is written in the third person – which is quite strange), has built schools in remote regions Pakistan and Afganistan. If even a quarter of what the book says he has done is true, it is so noble and involved facing such dangers and challenges that I couldn’t allow such horrible writing to stop me learning of his work. 

And then there’s the fact that a friend lent me the book and neighbours had waxed lyrical about it. So there was the pressure of pleasing neighbours and needing to be able to hold my own in future conversations. 

You need to know how much I struggled to finish this. Purple prose with run in sentences abound. Here’s one example:

“the inspiring view that greets these students from every classroom – the roof of the world, represented by Masherbrum’s soaring summit ridge-has already helped convince many of Hushe’s children to aim high.”

Maybe it is the result of having two authors but there is no real voice here.  It reminds me of the kind of writing that used to fill those little Readers Digest magazines. Except it doesn’t run to half a dozen small pages. It’s over 300 pages. 

The behind-the-scenes story is quite interesting. Apparently there may be discrepancies in Morentson’s tale. Why he felt the need to lie or unduely embellish his tale, I don’t know. There’s also fraudulent use of donations. Sadly, the co-author committed suicide. 

By the end, actually not the end – even a quarter through – I was shouting: I get it, he’s a hero, Pakistanis love him, he’s braver than any other American, he understands the culture and language more than any other westerner. Maybe it is a cultural thing, as in Australian vs American sense of the role of the individual in changing society. We tend to look to askance at people who big note themselves.  Even if they do good. Whose need are they meeting? 

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7 thoughts on “Three Cups of Tea

  1. Haven’t read it for the reasons you mention – questionable truth, funding scandal. Also tend to avoid many books described as inspirational. I met someone recently who was encouraging me to read a Mitch Albom book. Don’t see that happening.

    • Had to look up Mitch Albom. Totally with you on not reading those sort of books. Chicken Soup for the Easily Impressed and Gullible. Subtitle: how copywriters can make money by using made up “real life” stories written in purple prose.

  2. I bought two copies for my library of this book years ago yet never read it. Not sure why but probably because I a) don’t read much non fiction b) don’t particularly like “worthy” books.
    And now I need to confess that I didn’t mind the “Mitch” book (and read it before most of the hype) and ALSO enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love! Again, I feel I must clarify that I read it before it became trendy.
    BUT – will never read “The Secret” or Paulo Calo (or whatever his name is) books.

    • I think there’s a little too much image-protecting protesting here, Mercester. Just because you got in first doesn’t make them any less crappy. I think that only works for rock bands (as in I liked their old stuff better than their new stuff). Glad to see you have standards, though. One must draw the line somewhere and Paul Coehelo or whatever is definitely on he other side of the line.

  3. I am with you, as always. Tried to read the book years ago, couldn’t get through it for both those reasons – purple prose and self-glorification. Now there is barely a book on the planet that I haven’t read through to the bitter end just to see what happens, but this was one of them.. and this is why I trust your book reviews, good and bad. Keep them coming:)

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