Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

A Novel

Book - 2016 | First American edition.
Average Rating:
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"In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old." Master storyteller Madeleine 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 and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming's father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli, were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China's political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.
Publisher: New York :, W.W. Norton & Company,, 2016.
Edition: First American edition.
ISBN: 9781783782666
9780393609882
Characteristics: 473 pages : illustrations, genealogical table ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Don't say we have nothing
Summary: "In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old." Master storyteller Madeleine 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 and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming's father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli, were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China's political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.

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m
mwongmoon
Jan 22, 2018

Read this book twice and LOVE it. The second reading was very worthwhile and I appreciated it even more than the first time, partly because I could keep the characters and history in my mind. Beautiful writing style. Extremely interesting to read about life in China from the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. So Tiananmen Square was much more than what happened in the Square itself. Fascinating to read about all the classical music, and noteworthy that Madeleine Thien comes back to classical music and mathematics in both this book and Certainty. Great descriptions of aptitude for math because of "a good memory and love of poetry". Another interesting comment about infinity, as in Certainty.

s
sgcf
Jan 15, 2018

This is a brilliantly written epic of a heart-wrenching era in China’s history, from the repressive Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, through Mao’s cultural revolution, through Tiananmen Square to the present. The characters are achingly real, so fully fleshed that I wanted to believe it was nonfiction. But a family tree diagram would have been helpful. Strong themes of music throughout, and the re-writing of stories over decades (like history re-written over centuries). It’s full of mysterious unknowns and is seemingly unfinished …the way time itself is unfinished. A marvel, though I wish it had been condensed by about 100 pages.

t
thepudman
Jan 14, 2018

For all those who hard a hard time finishing the book, sign it out again and finish it! It is a great book, easily in my top ten ever. I agree with another person who posted though - it is too long. I almost gave up, but the story came together in the end.

A book with a high degree of difficulty! It required a lot of reflection afterward, but once you are able to gather all the strands of the story, it becomes a beautiful and moving read.

s
Subreeze
Oct 23, 2017

Hard work

ehbooklover Sep 20, 2017

A meticulously researched, eye-opening book about the cultural revolution in China that was well worth the effort involved in reading it.

f
FloEh
Sep 11, 2017

I got this from the express shelf and it was very much touch and go whether I could finish it in the 7 days + 7 renewal days (but I did it - yay me ;->). At 100+ pages too long, I nonetheless appreciated discovering some Chinese history from an individual family's perspective. I was surprised in the acknowledgement pages that some people were still afraid of being recognized as contributing but then it dawned on me that this was an aftermath of the history related in the story itself - that those who stood up when it seemed safe during the 1989 Tiananmen Square student uprisings being victimized in the quick aftermath.

l
LAARA333
Sep 06, 2017

I gave it 185 pages.. but I found myself leaving it for a few days and then after a week, I just couldn't follow who was who and what their nicknames were and when and where the action was happening... and I'm a very good reader so I am disappointed in myself. I am rather ignorant as regards the musical references, and I was also bored with the reading at times, even though I found myself caring for these characters and wanting to know their story. I needed more clarity of time and place...I found it rather structure-less.

m
mdextras
Aug 09, 2017

Here is the link to the Muse & Views Book Club comments about Do Not Say We Have Nothing

https://bookclub9.blogspot.ca/2017/06/meeting-of-may-26-2017.html

MVBOOKCLUB Jul 29, 2017

This was a tough one. Some found it difficult to follow all the different characters and jumping around, yet other members really connected with the book. Those who had the most positive reading experience had traveled to China and were able to make a personal connection.

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