Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Book - 2016
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"An extraordinary novel set in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989--the breakout book we've been waiting for from a bestselling, First Novel Award winner. Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise. At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; Sparrow's ethereal cousin Zhuli, daughter of Swirl and storyteller Wen the Dreamer, who as a child witnesses the denunciation of her parents and as a young woman becomes the target of denunciations herself; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai's daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story. With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of daily life inside China, yet transcendent in its universality."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Toronto : Knopf Canada, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780345810427
Branch Call Number: FIC Thien
Characteristics: 473 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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May 20, 2020

Moving tale - made me emphathize with what it would have been like for perceived class enemies (musicians) during Cultural Revolution in China and then again in the democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Subjects I do not know a lot about. Read this during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and it was a big help in expanding my immagination beyond the four corners of my little home.

Feb 17, 2020

Difficult and long, never finished but a very good book about politics and China

Dec 03, 2019

Angela Lin is a masterful narrator - I always knew who was speaking in the tangle of characters.
I have two quibbles with the audiobook: I found the time at 20 hours a bit too long and I found the writing a bit too didactic - less would have been more. That said, the novel is an opus and I’ll read it (or maybe listen to it a second time) soon.

Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / May 2018

Jul 22, 2019

This book is a masterpiece like no other.

Apr 22, 2019

A beautiful and very poetic novel that I enjoyed reading very much. A great way to learn about China's history while going through very important topics: emancipation, freedom, love... Music, mathematics, poesy, literature and action accelerate and slow the story that mixes times and generations. Beautiful!

Jan 23, 2019

Prose. You will be swept away to 20th century China with this novel's lyrical writing.

JessicaGma Dec 16, 2018

A really interesting 'history' of contemporary China where Mao's reforms turned everything on its head. Marie recounts her family history in the effort to find her cousin. It's a slow moving story but very intriguing.

Jul 24, 2018

This book started off with prose, an exquisite storyline filled with music and bold characters, and in the end I couldn’t finish it out of sheer boredom. I knew that this would be a slow paced novel, but there’s a limit. The characters failed to leave a lasting mark on me, and if I’m being brutally honest: I don’t even remember what transpired in the novel. That’s just how unaffected I am by this story of demonstrations and full-length pages of musical descriptions. Initially, the story had enough intrigue to keep me invested, but it was too long and dreary. When I finished, I took a big sigh of relief.
- @jewelreader of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Jun 28, 2018

I really enjoyed this read. The characters were real, damaged and good at heart. They lived in horrible times that caught them in a lifestyle mess where they had no control on any aspect of their lives.
I think this novel did a good job in showing the hardships and uncertainties of living in such a regime and of drawing the reader in, making them care for these characters, to show the fear and uncertainty that citizens faced every day.
I enjoyed the use of music to flow throughout. The music showed discord, harmony, strife and was always looking for a way to work as a whole and to bring serenity, joy and hope into the piece. Music can be interpreted in different ways by each individual; just as the Mao regime could be. Music is heard when played; one cannot turn off one's ears.....just as the situation in China is lived and cannot be stopped.
A powerful story of a horrible time, showing human resilience and determination.

Note: the situation of "work assignments" and tearing families apart reminded me of the Residential School situation in North America but on a larger scale. In both situations, families are torn apart and family members are left lost, alone, confused, frightened and emotionally scarred in a way that continues through the generations. It's an utterly horrible situation, no matter where it happens.

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