Summary and book reviews of Le Colonial by Kien Nguyen

Le Colonial

By Kien Nguyen

Le Colonial
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Aug 2004,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

CHAPTER ONE

Avignon, France, 1771

The brush was a hickory twig, its end hammered into a soft, pointed fringe. The painter drew it across the canvas, tracing a long stroke of cobalt blue - the light of predawn. Another dash, a smear, a twist of the bristles, and a cluster of areca palms silhouetted the horizon. The only movement was a blur of wind across a colony of stars.

It was the first day of winter. The inside of the church was so cold that he could see his breath in the candlelight. The painting was a rectangle of oils on sheepskin, stretched on a wooden frame. Its image resembled nothing of the splendor and immensity of the surrounding medieval architecture but was cast in the bold colors of his imagination. Hanging by cords over his wool coat was a collection of curios - fragments of broken clay pots, pinecones, a metal goblet, clumps of feathers, a bird's wing. The rest of his belongings ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews
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. 

Kirkus Reviews

An intriguing epic of ethical, moral, and spiritual conflicts from an emerging talent worth watching. 

Publishers Weekly

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.

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 ablaze.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Le Colonial, try these:

  • Anil's Ghost jacket

    Anil's Ghost

    by Michael Ondaatje

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization, Anil's Ghost is a literary spellbinder.

  • Lost Soldiers jacket

    Lost Soldiers

    by James Webb

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A page-turning mystery, shot through with adventure and intrigue that captures the Vietnam of past and present --- its beauty and squalor, its politics and people.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin
  2.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh

All Discussions

Who Said...

The moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold into a library, we've changed their lives ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.