A stunning epic of Asian history in the tradition of James Clavell, from
the author of The Tapestries and The Unwanted.
Paris in the late 1700s. The France of Victor Hugo. This is the world
that three men will leave behind as they embark on a mission of faith and
passion in Annam, an exotic land in the Far East. And although they imagine
that they will sail into the harbors peacefully and bring hope and meaning
into the lives of the faithless, what they discover when they arrive is
civil war, warlords on horseback, floods, and famine. In a hostile new
world, these three men - François Gervaise, a handsome painter; Henri
Monange, a young runaway; and Pierre de Béhaine, a charismatic priest -
discover that although they have come to convert the heathens, it is their
own hearts and souls that are changed forever. Their dreams of colonial
glory dashed, they must reinvent the meaning of their journey.
Drawing from a richly layered history and based loosely on the life of
Pierre de Béhaine, Le Colonial is an unforgettable and romantic
epic. A shimmering tapestry of swords and silk, it explores faith, passion,
and the perils of ambition.
The New Yorker
Nguyen's first novel, The Tapestries, followed the long silk thread
of his Vietnamese family's history (his grandfather was a court
embroiderer) against a background of strife, oppression, and social change.
Here he reaches further back into Vietnam's history it is 1773, the
country is called Annam, and three French missionaries, financed by the
French government, set off to convert the Annamese to Christianity. The trio
are confronted by relentless horrors—executions, pillage, starvation—which
challenge their religious faith. The violence of the story is sometimes at
odds with the author's penchant for poetic description, which is more
suited to quieter interludes, as when a character walking along the coast of
the South China Sea watches as the sun bloomed like a red dahlia, petals
Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert
In his second novel, the Vietnamese-born Nguyen delivers a rich, satisfying tale that goes just beyond the
typical historical saga to raise interesting questions of faith and culture
while instructing us in the history of a country with which we were once at
war. Recommended for most collections.
An intriguing epic of ethical, moral, and spiritual conflicts from an
emerging talent worth watching.
Nguyen maintains the impressive period detail that made
his first novel, The Tapestries, so compelling, but his narrative is much
sharper this time around, with the story drawing energy from the contrast
between the characters' various agendas, particularly the constant clashes
between Gervaise and Béhaine. Nguyen's take on the meeting of East and West
is intelligent, heady and memorable.
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