Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Daughters of the River Huong by Uyen Nicole Duong

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Daughters of the River Huong is a richly woven tapestry of family, country, conflict, and redemption. A saga spanning four generations of Vietnamese women, we discover lives inextricably tied to their country’s struggle for independence. Narrated by the teenaged Simone, a girl who flaunts convention and enters into a forbidden relationship of love and sensuality, readers are drawn to the lives of four of Simone’s ancestors, from Huyen Phi, the Mystique Concubine from the extinct Kingdom of Champa, to Ginseng, the Mystique Concubine’s second daughter and a heroine of the Vietnamese Revolution. Duong tells a tumultuous story of power and lust that transports us from the Violet City of Hue to the teeming streets of a Saigon at war, from the affluence of Paris’s St. Germain des Pres to Manhattan. Love, war, capitalism, revolution—this novel delivers a chronicle of history as fascinating as it is memorable.

And here's what I thought:   I didn't have any knowledge of Vietnam's history (aside from the Vietnam War in the 1960's-1970's involving America).   In this book, not only did I get caught up in the stories of these women, but I also learned about Vietnam, much more than I thought I would when I began the book.   The story spans the period from just before the French colonization of Vietnam in the mid-19th century and goes through the 1990s.   The backdrop of all of these different time periods (and conflicts) really made the story interesting.

I really enjoyed how the author seemed to carefully choose words, crafting sentences and paragraphs.  Her writing was so descriptive, that I could picture these women, and the settings, quite clearly.    I will admit that I was glad the author had included not only a list of the main characters and their context, but also a family tree, at the beginning of the book.   Once or twice, I got a little confused, so it was helpful to refer to these to get back on track.   However, overall, I found this to be a good read.   I have read and enjoyed stories about Chinese women in different time periods (Wild Swans, which is a nonfiction book; books by Lisa Yee and Amy Tan), so it was interesting to read about a different country, whose history I had little knowledge of beforehand. 

If you'd like to learn more about this author, I'm including a few links I found:  The Vietnam Literature Project, an interview with the author on The Writer's Post, and her information on GoodReads, showing her two other books.    Her book, Postcards from Nam, is due out in August, 2011.    

  First sentences: I turned the key and opened the door to the apartment that was my home.
Christopher must have sent Lucinda home for the weekend.  The lacquered clock chimed six thirty as I closed the apartment door behind me, my heels clicking and pivoting on the hardwood.  I knew that, down the hall from where I stood motionless in the vestibule, he could have heard my turning and hushing the key out of the lock.

Thoughts on the covers:   I included both covers here, to show the differences between them.    The cover on the book I received is the one below, which is blue.   I like this cover, but you really have to hold it up and look closely to see the details.  I actually like the other cover a bit better, where it shows images of women against a backdrop --- and I especially like how the one older photo fads into the background a bit.   


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This sounds very, very good. It sounds like quite a wonderful read. This is one I want to read.

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