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The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novel by…

The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novel

by Camilla Gibb

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2572644,496 (3.95)47
Title:The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novel
Authors:Camilla Gibb
Info:Penguin Press HC, The (no date), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, BI2010
Tags:Vietnam, Hanoi, advance proof, 2012

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The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb



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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I didn't expect to like this, because I am not generally drawn to literary fiction—especially Canadian literary fiction—and have little interest in the subject of Vietnamese politics. It didn't help that I had also been warned that it wasn't a very cheerful book. So I went in with low expectations and was favourably impressed.

The story swirls around the memories of an elderly man who has survived decades of political turmoil and war in Vietnam, living in poverty, and selling pho from a portable stall. Such a story will obviously include violence and atrocities, and the author handles it in such a way that it is appalling, but not graphic. Despite a lifetime of deprivation and loss, Old Man Hung matter of factly carries on making his soup, and remains loyal to his friends and his ideals. Hung and the characters who gravitate around him are, indeed, beautiful humans. While reading, I had feelings of horror, sorrow, and regret, but my final impression was one of optimism, as the characters' love, kindness, and honour shone through.

The book is beautifully written, and I didn't find any flaws in style, plot, or characterization. Will I read more by the author? Probably not, because while I admire this book, it is still not a type that I'm likely to seek out. But I would highly recommend it to anyone who does like this sort of thing. Just don't read it while you're hungry, because the food descriptions will make your mouth water and stomach rumble. ( )
1 vote SylviaC | Mar 10, 2016 |
Set in post war Vietnam this book is about Maggie, a Vietnamese who was brought up in America. She goes back to Vietnam to find the story of her father an artist who paid with his life during the revolution. The central character in the book is Old Man Hung who collects a crowd around his Pho pot and whose memories go back a long way. Maggie meets Hung through a young tour guide Tu and the rest is the story. A well written account of a terrible period in Vietnamese history. ( )
  Writermala | Oct 11, 2015 |
A surprisingly touching story of family, fealty, and friendship set in present-day Hanoi but steeped in the history of that troubled land. Old Man Hung is an itinerant pho’-seller (a Vietnamese noodle soup) whose customers loyally follow him from one location in the city to another as he gets pushed along. The doi moi (the relatively recent Vietnamese embrace of limited capitalism) has not transformed Hung’s business. He is faithful to his ancient formula and the care of his community, admittedly a community on the edge, literally, a shanty town on the shore of a polluted pond. He looks after his neighbours much as he looks after his customers. But his greatest care is for the memory of the artists and intellectuals who used to gather in his pho’ shop (when he still had a shop) back in the early 1950s. This clique of committed artists thought there was no incompatibility between the welcome encroach of communism which would depose their colonial rulers and the individual, subjective critical perspective that art demands. They may have been naive, but their belief, commitment, and deeds (continuing to publish a banned art journal) were heroic. It is this artistic movement — the beauty of humanity movement — that gives the novel its title. Despite losing everything in the interim, even the journals of his treasured poets and artists, Old Man Hung clings to their vision. But his own vision is failing and his memory is too. And it looks as though he has lost the words of the poet, Dao, that he once knew as well as his own heart.

Into this environment comes Maggie, the daughter of one of Old Man Hung’s artists. She was born in Vietnam but fled with her mother to the USA at the fall of Saigon. She has returned to Hanoi to take up a post as curator for a cache of artworks discovered in the hold of the Metropole hotel, but also on a quest for information concerning the fate of her father, who did not escape. Maggie comes into contact, eventually, with Old Man Hung and gradually the story emerges of both her father, the artistic movement to which he belonged, and the abiding love that Hung has harboured all these years for Lan, his estranged neighbour.

The writing here is measured and aromatic. Gibb’s descriptions of Hung’s culinary creations will leave you with an overwhelming desire to visit a Vietnamese restaurant, knowing all the while that it will not live up to Hung’s food. But equally stimulating is Gibb’s sensitive treatment of art and its demands, and the horrors that we visit upon each other in the name of political progress. The novel does not attempt to be a definitive statement on the conflict that so plagued the Americans. Rather it is, in many respects, a quiet exploration of a single simple man’s life and the myriad lives that he touches one way or another. Nicely done. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Sep 3, 2015 |
This is a truly wonderful book. It offers insight into life in Vietnam both before and after the communist movement took hold in the northern part of this company. The city that is at its epicenter is Hanoi. We get a first hand look at what life is like for the ordinary people as their country is brought under communist rule. Ms. Gibb uses beautiful language to develop her no holds barred look at how difficult life is for the people during the turmoil. The book is woven around the life of Old Man Hung. He is an itinerant pho seller.(Vietnamese beef noodle soup). The people that are in Hung's orbit are truly blessed with this wonderful man's insight into humanity and family life. In his lifetime and in his business he has seen much that is momentous and tragic, but he never loses faith in the human spirit. Ms. Gibbs' character development and her understanding of Vietnamese life are extraordinary. The language that she uses throughout the book is incredibly vivid and poignant. Hung's gentleness and understanding is tied together with the care he takes in his soup making. There is a story here of old love lost and regained. There is forgiveness and forbearance, understanding and acceptance. These are all traits that we as human beings try so hard to achieve and what Old Man Hung holds in abundance. There are lots of lessons to be learned in this gem of a book. ( )
  Romonko | Aug 6, 2014 |
Set in contemporary Vietnam which is once again open to the West, Gibb offers a thoughtful novel on the meaning of family ties and art as a reflection of national character. Much attention is focused on Old Man Hung’s survival as an unlicensed Pho soup seller. His extraordinary adaptability and the continuity with the past offered through his culinary skills suggest Hung is offering not just Pho, but hope.
  vplprl | May 15, 2014 |
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Old man Hung makes the best pho in the city and has done so for decades.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159420280X, Hardcover)

This deeply observed novel of contemporary Vietnam interweaves stories of a venerable soup seller, a young Vietnamese American curator, and an enterprising tour guide in ways that will mark all of their lives forever.

Maggie, an art curator who is Vietnamese by birth but who has lived most of her life in the United States, has returned to her country of origin in search of clues to her dissident father's disappearance. She remembers him only in fragments, as an injured artist from whom she and her mother were separated during the war. In her journey, Maggie finds herself at a makeshift pho stall, where the rich aroma of beef noodle soup lures people off Hanoi's busy streets and into a quiet morning ritual.

Old Man Hung, the enlightened proprietor of the beloved pho stall, has survived decades of poverty and political upheaval. Hung once had a shop that served as a meeting place for dissident artists. As Maggie discovers, this old man may hold the key to both her past and her future.

Among Hung's most faithful customers is Tu', a dynamic young tour guide who works for a company called New Dawn. Tu' leads tourists through the city, including American vets on war tours, but he has begun to wonder what it is they are seeing of Vietnam-and what they miss entirely. In Maggie, he finds a young Americanized woman in search of something quite different, leading him beyond his realm of expertise. In sensual, interwoven narratives, Maggie, Hung, and Tu' come together in a highly charged season that will mark all of them forever.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a skillfully wrought novel about the reverberation of conflict through generations, the enduring legacy of art, and the redemption and renewal of love. The story of these characters is tinged with longing for worlds and loved ones lost but also filled with the hope that faith can heal the pain of their shared country's turbulent past. This is the distinct and complex story of contemporary Vietnam, a country undergoing momentous change, and a story of how family is defined-not always by bloodlines, but by heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:37 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Searching for answers about her dissident father's disappearance, a Vietnamese-American art curator returns to her ancestral country, where she meets a venerable pho stall soup maker and a dynamic young tour guide whose historical and cultural insights irrevocably shape her life.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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