Thursday, March 9, 2017
Review: Do Not Say We Have Nothing
I love reading historical fiction, but I often find myself starting at piles of WWII era stories. It was nice to read about a different country and time period, as this book takes readers through the Cultural Revolution up into the 1990s. Thien gives readers a historical overview while also showing very specifically the uncertainty and pain that comes with a government that constantly changes administrations and rules. Like a lot of historical fiction, Do Not Say We Have Nothing moves in dual narratives with Marie in the present and her father and Ai-Ming's father in the past. While this kind of narrative device tends to fall flat for me, it was stunning here. As I read, I was aware that I didn't know everything yet but I was happy to settle in and slowly find out how these people were connected and where they would end up.
The best stories are both universal and specific. While the decisions these characters must make are because of the specific time and place that they live in, every reader can relate to the shock of discovering you don't really know a loved one, the mystery and power of story, music, and history, and what we are willing to sacrifice as an individual living within a family or a community. I fully understand why this incredible book made the Man Booker shortlist for 2016. I will be thinking about the characters and their stories for a long time.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing
By Madeleine Thien
W.W. Norton and Company November 2016
From the library