‘This is a wonderful story of mid-life opportunity. Jane Carswell is a courageous woman and a spirited writer. Her book is a warm invitation to us all to risk a deeper kind of journey.’ Michael McGirr, author The Lost Art of Sleep, Things You Get For Free, and Bypass.
In mid-life Jane Carswell leaves her seemingly tranquil New Zealand life, her family and friends, to teach English in Chongqing, China. Her journey into the unknown epitomises the ache so many of us feel in our own lives for new challenges and personal understandings. Under the Huang Jiao Tree is a reflective, amusing and absorbing book about living and working in China, and the profound impact the experience has on the author’s search for connection and community. Carswell writes beautifully and entertainingly of China, of its people and her surprises and setbacks, but where her memoir stands alone is in its description of her own search for a spiritual life and practice. On her return to her Western life she becomes drawn to the teachings of St Benedict, and all at once the reader realises where the purity of her writing springs from: a deep well of calm, silence and belief.
Born in England, Jane Carswell received all her schooling at St Margaret’s College, in Christchurch where she now lives. Other homes were in Dunedin, Perugia (where she studied Italian) Waikari, Leeston and Chongqing (where she taught English). After piano lessons with Jessie Cook until she was 25, Jane began a lifelong career in teaching music. She has also worked with publishers, booksellers, lawyers, accountants, historians, real estate agents and artists. She is a Benedictine oblate, is married, and has a son and daughter, a 1912 straight-strung Bechstein piano, a split-cane fly rod, and small grandchildren who are teaching her ballet. She is a regular visitor to Australia.