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Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine…

Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016)

by Madeleine Thien

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5653517,607 (3.91)197



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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This book deserves more than five stars because it is in a league of its own. Thien writes with the insight and keen, careful observation of a fly on the wall of history. And yet, her words carry such breadth and depth and significance, it's as though she were floating high above her characters and watching the story unfold in the context of the universe. Historical fiction, generational saga—none of the standard depictions do justice to this masterful piece of creative beauty. The words practically sing and each component of this book has a life of its own. My thoughts are all jumbled here because I am so deeply impressed by this work, I don't even know how to begin reviewing it. ( )
  saresmoore | Mar 20, 2018 |
I wanted to love this book so much. There's no question that Madeleine Thien has written a brilliant novel, but I'm not connecting with the style of writing here. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
Not an easy book to read - I never felt compelled to keep reading, and I preferred the Vancouver story to the China story. However, it is a well-written book and addresses a time and place in history I knew little about, so I appreciate the opportunity to be educated on the oppression by Mao and others. What could the peole do?? There isn't a sense of hopelessness in the characters, though, and it is interesting to see how each one deals with the situation differently. Definitely worth discussion in a book club or classroom! ( )
1 vote LDVoorberg | Dec 3, 2017 |
I found this more informative than moving - which probably says more about gaps in my knowledge than anything else. That said, the wider horrors of Mao's regime overshadowed the characters, and the Tiananmen denoument was oddly flat. ( )
  alexrichman | Nov 3, 2017 |
Much like when I read The Historian, I was unable to decide if what I was reading was fiction or nonfiction. (Of course, there were no vampires in this book so maybe this isn't the best comparison except for the way they both made me feel.) I couldn't put down Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien despite how much I sometimes wanted to in order to spare myself further heartbreak. This is the story of those who lived through China's Cultural Revolution and their successors a world away in Canada...at least a tiny little slice. Our main characters rotate between Sparrow, Kai, and Zhuli who lived during Mao Zedong's reign of terror, Ai-Ming who took part in the demonstrations of Tiananmen Square, and Marie who wants to piece everything together in present day Canada. This is also about music and its power to lift the soul or to mire it in secrets. A lot of sensitive topics are touched on in this book including but not limited to torture, public humiliation, and sexual assault. This is not just a work of historical fiction but also a mystery about people, events, and a book that keeps resurfacing. Intricately woven with details which seem to make the story come to life in vivid color right before your eyes this book is one that I think everyone should experience. This is the hallmark of excellent historical fiction. 10/10 ( )
1 vote AliceaP | Sep 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Skillfully and elliptically told..At times, however, the ambitious scope of this novel bogs down its writing, sometimes feeling like a history lesson in disguise. Dialogue is weighed down by background information, with unnatural monologues whose prime purpose is historical exposition. Here, Thien’s writing loses the subtlety and elegance for which she has become known, and I found myself yearning for the more streamlined approach she took in Dogs at the Perimeter, a novel equally far-reaching in scope but focused on fewer characters and subplots.

Nevertheless, there are many sections of Do Not Say We Have Nothing that show Thien at the height of her abilities...With unflinching clarity, Thien examines the strange, frightening psychology of mass violence in this period and how countless lives were lost as a result. It falls to music, art and literature to salvage fleeting moments of beauty from the ruins of history, the lives of the dead.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing cements Madeleine Thien as one of Canada’s most talented novelists... Although ostensibly a historical novel about two of the most significant moments in recent Chinese history, Thien has written a supple epic about that which remains behind after each new beginning. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is thoroughly researched but without the burden of trivia, both riveting and lyrical. I’m reminded of a few words from the American poet Lyn Hejinian: “And we love detail, because every detail supersedes the universal.”

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345810422, Hardcover)

An extraordinary novel set in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989--the breakout book we've been waiting for from a bestselling, Amazon.ca First Novel Award winner.

Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise.
     At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; Sparrow's ethereal cousin Zhuli, daughter of Swirl and storyteller Wen the Dreamer, who as a child witnesses the denunciation of her parents and as a young woman becomes the target of denunciations herself; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai's daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story.
     With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of daily life inside China, yet transcendent in its universality.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 03 Jan 2016 09:34:09 -0500)

"In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old."Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming's father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli, were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China's political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.… (more)

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