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The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novel by…
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The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novel

by Camilla Gibb

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2232352,123 (3.92)36
Member:geogal
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
Rating:****
Tags:Vietnam, Hanoi, advance proof, 2012

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The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb

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» See also 36 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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 |


A light read. Not the greatest in terms of character development. That said, I wish this book had been around before I moved to Hanoi in 1997 because it was a good portrayal of Hanoi's street life, culture and recent history (at least the highlights). ( )
  EllenReads | Apr 26, 2014 |
An inter-generational tale of loss and love set in contemporary Vietnam.
  BCE_Library | Apr 24, 2014 |
"Hung is the heart of this small community on the banks of a polluted pond; he is good to these poor people, keeping them fed and entertained. He treats everyone with respect—from people in high places, like Miss Maggie Lý, to people without sense or legs, like his neighbour. It is humbling to have an Old Man Hung in your life. It makes you want to be a better person.” (Ch 4)

Miss Maggie Lý, born in Vietnam but raised by her mother in the US, “feels a stranger in the world in the absence of a family history.” Her father, Lý Văn Hai, an artist in Hanoi in the 1940s, was sent to re-education camp in 1956. He never saw his family again. An art curator, Maggie leaves America without hesitation when she learns that an incomparable collection of work has been found in a bomb shelter beneath a Hanoi. In her quest to trace the priceless works of art and, in the process, discover her own roots, she will meet Old Man Hung, who remembers that Lý Văn Hai would have been in good company. Hung remembers just how good was the poetry, the essays, and the artwork produced by the artists of The Beauty of Humanity Movement – he remembers “the fearlessness the men he knew had displayed in the face of opposition, the reach and inspiration of their work.” (Ch 1)

The elderly Hung, the central character in the novel, is unforgettable. The ninth child in his family, he recalls being sent away to live with his uncle in Hanoi in 1933; and his uncle taught him to make pho. Through decades of war and deprivation, and through the oppression of Communist rule, Hung continually learns new ways of making pho in order that he might feed his people. From the vantage point of old age and as “the best pho maker is Hanoi,” Hung observes the differences in how he has lived with the manner in which his adopted family lives: that is, post war, in an era of capitalism and popular culture. But Hung is not ready to go yet. He has a mission: “He is a blank slate upon which history will write its story. But he will wake before the story’s end, he is sure of it. He will counter the lies written there. He will fill in the gaps that remain.” (Ch 18)

Gibbs is a gifted writer with a talent for bringing home a sense of place and for writing about the connections which bind us together: love, politics, food, culture, history. I also thoroughly enjoyed her previous novel set in Ethiopia and London: A Sweetness in the Belly. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote lit_chick | Feb 17, 2014 |
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For Phuong, Lan and Bao
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:38 -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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