Born in 1920, Tran Dieu Lan and her family lost everything when the Communist government came to power in North Việt Nam.
Forced to flee with her six children, she knows she must do whatever it takes to keep her family alive.
Fifty years later, her country is again at war, and her young granddaughter Huong grieves the loss of her parents, who have disappeared to the South along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Vivid, compelling and deeply moving, THE MOUNTAINS SING introduces a Vietnamese voice to the post-war literary canon.
Drawing on her family history, and the stories of other survivors, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s debut novel in English, brings to life the true human cost of a devastating war, and the improbable power of hope to sustain us when all seems lost.
With echoes of Homegoing and Pachinko, this is a standout new novel from a celebrated Vietnamese poet.
‘The Mountains Sing is my search for lost Vietnamese history. I researched for it my whole life and wrote it when I was 39 years old. I wrote it with everything I had…’
BORN IN VIETNAM in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up in the aftermath of the war and witnessed its devastation on her country. She worked as a street seller and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia.
She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology.
Her work has received the Hanoi Writers Association ‘Poetry of the Year’ Award (2010). She lives with her family in Jakarta.
This is an incredibly moving and compelling read, I’m the first to admit I know very little about Vietnam and its history, so this family saga is very fascinating and interesting.
You can see the author’s poetic roots in some of the lines, which read so beautifully on the page, conjuring full colour images in the mind.
Moving back and forth between Duen Lan’s past and her granddaughter’s present in the aftermath of the American invasion of Vietnam and the ensuing war, unites the two generations in their family’s long fight to survive against what often seem like insurmountable odds.
I was reminded of Jung Chan’s Wild Swans, the family memoir, even fictionalised as here, is powerful and emotive, drawing you into the lives of these unforgettable characters.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.