Mark O' Neill's book on his Irish pastor grandfather has also been published in Chinese. The traditional Chinese edition came out in Nov 2012 and a simplified Chinese edition is expected on the shelves soon.
While many biographies attract readers with juicy anecdotes and vivid reproduction of the past, Mark O'Neill's Frederick: The Story of My Missionary Grandfather reads more like a history book or a long news report.
The author presents documents he has found in libraries and faithful records of his interviews but refrains from airing his opinions or revealing his feelings.
"A reader criticized my book as 'dry' and said that it was obvious I'm not a Christian. But I cannot fabricate specific scenes and dialogues in the past because I was not there as a witness," the former journalist says.
The book's simple writing and objective presentation let it live up to the comment from Victor Fung, principal lecturer of the Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University: "It is not only a biography but also a truthful record of modern history of China".
Liu Weiming, host of Mark O'Neill's lecture in Guangzhou and a senior editor, says he is "shocked" by the events of history he didn't know until he read the book, like the fact that during World War I, O'Neill's grandfather accompanied Chinese workers sent to military factories in Europe.
"History textbooks didn't tell me this. Researchers have not paid much attention to missionaries in China, especially in the Northeast," says Liu, a Christian.
Besides his grandfather's stories, O'Neill also writes about other missionaries sent by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland to China, and foreign doctors dedicated to helping the Chinese during wartime and plagues.
The book opens a door for readers and gives them a look into the life of not only one but a group of missionaries. It also shows O'Neill's journalistic instincts and critical thinking.