Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine ThienThien has written some fine books (Dogs At The Perimeter, Certainty), but this new book is her best yet – an epic story of China. The evocative writing describes the agony of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s leading up to the horror of the Tiananmen Square massacre. There are three central characters that are linked by their passion for music.

The coda at the end of the book describes the first time a lost composition for violin and piano is played: “At first, the violin played alone, a series of notes that slowly widened. When the piano entered, I saw a man turning in measured elegant circles, I saw him looking for the centre that eluded him, this beautiful centre that promised an end to sorrow, the lightness of freedom. The piano stepped forward and the violin lifted, a man crossing a room and a girl weeping as she climbed a flight of steps; they played as if one sphere could merge into the other, as if they could arrive in time and be redeemed in a single overlapping moment. And even when the notes they played were the very same, the piano and violin were irrevocably apart, drawn by different lives and different times. Yet in their separateness, and in the quiet, they contained one another”.

This book has great story telling with some transcendent writing – highly recommended.

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Certainty by Madeleine Thien

474662This is a great book, really two love stories spanning two generations set in North Borneo (WWII, now Malaysia), Vancouver and The Netherlands. It is a compelling story of secrets and sorrows of the past, and grief and loss (a phrase: “ routine .. to keep their thoughts contained”). This may be the only time I have recommended two books by the same author in a single month.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/474662.Certainty?from_search=true

Dogs At The Perimeter by Madeleine Thien

10129122This is a heartbreaking story of Cambodia in the 1970s, horrors that persist two decades later in Canada. A haunting phrase: “Hunger was erasing my being”; reality becomes blurred in such horrible circumstances. Thien was at Blue Metropolis last May in Montreal.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10129122-dogs-at-the-perimeter