The astonishing autobiographical story of a young man's upbringing in a remote tribal village in Burma and his subsequent journey from his strife-torn country to the tranquil quads of Cambridge.
In lyrical prose, Pascal Khoo-Twee describes his childhood and early days as a member of the Padaung hill tribe, where ancestor worship and communion with spirits blended with the tribe's recent conversion to Christianity. In the 1930s, Pascal's grandfather (and head of the clan) captured an Italian Jesuit, mistaking him for a giant or a wild beast; the Jesuit in turn converted the tribe.
(The Padaung are famous for their "giraffe women" - so-called because their necks are ritually elongated with ornamental copper rings. Pascal's grandmother had been exhibited in a touring Bertram Mills Circus in England as a "freak".)
Pascal developed a love of the English language through listening with his father to the BBC World Service, and it was while earning money as a waiter in a restaurant in Mandalay to pay for his studies that he met the Cambridge don, John Casey, who was to prove his saviour. The brutal military regime of General Ne Win cracked down on "dissidents" in the late 1980s.