BookBrowse Reviews The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

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The Mountains Sing

by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai X
The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 16, 2021, 368 pages

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A vivid and poetic multi-generational saga, The Mountains Sing follows the experiences of a Vietnamese family through the 20th century.

Voted 2020 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

All 23 of our First Impressions reviewers for The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai rated the book 4 or 5 stars, with over half giving it 5 stars, resulting in an inspiring average rating of 4.6.

What the book is about:

This beautifully written historical novel tells the 20th-century Vietnamese history of conflict, famine and corruption through the lives of a resilient and loving grandmother, born in 1920, and her granddaughter, born in 1960, who long for a world without war. Their struggles to survive, and stay a family, portray the impact war can have for many generations (Lynn D).

Readers describe Nyugen's writing as beautiful and poetic...

This story is beautifully and compellingly told by Nguyễn Phan, whose family lived through Vietnam's 20th-century history, starting with the land reform, Communist rule and the Vietnam War (Margaret A). This is one of the best books I've read in a long time! The author Nguyễn Phan is a poet and it shows in her beautiful prose (Karen S). With power and poetry, Nguyễn Phan guided me onto lands and into cultures I had never before experienced. Her fresh imagery reflects a constant dependence on the earth for survival, passed down through generations of farmers (Ora J).

...and remark that the book is surprisingly engaging despite its painful subject matter.

It seems odd to note that a book about such painful events is "easy to read," but this poet, essayist and novelist tells her characters' story with clarity and beautiful language (Karen S). Nguyễn Phan gives us characters with depth and a storyline that is filled with action, insight and discovery (Molly K).

Some reviewers mention having gained a new perspective on the Vietnam War…

The story was an eye-opener for me, never having heard the Vietnam story from the point of view of the North Vietnamese. They struggled heroically to keep their way of life and their country whole in the face of incredibly bad odds forced on them by foreign powers (Liz D). As an American, I found this novel to be eye-opening about a country and people beyond just the "Vietnam War" I knew about. A full-bodied picture was presented, providing a depth of knowledge and emotion that was lacking in my previous thoughts of Vietnam (Kay D).

...as well as a sense of hope.

I was especially awed by the strength, courage and intelligence of Tran Dieu Lan, the matriarch of the Tran family. She shares her story with her young granddaughter, Huong, whose father has not returned from the war and whose mother is traumatized by her own war experiences. There is no one in the family not touched by the evils of war. But they have such strong love for each other. The Mountains Sing is truly inspiring (Gloria F). The examples of respect and honor for ancestors, devotion to family and persistence in the face of incredible odds are lessons for all. The hope and love shine through in this emotionally fulfilling novel. I look forward to hearing more from Nguyễn Phan either in new books or translations of some of her previous works (Mary G).

Click here for how to pronounce the author's name.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2020, and has been updated for the December 2020 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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