Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Book - 2016
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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: 9780393609882
Branch Call Number: FIC Thie
Characteristics: 473 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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FVRL_Jacque Dec 09, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

Aug 09, 2017

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

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.

Jul 17, 2017

Her writing has a flare and an elegance but I found it hard to follow and I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters. I didn't finish it.

WPLBookClub Jun 11, 2017

The Whistler Public Library and Armchair Books book club read "Do Not Say We Have Nothing" in April 2017. This novel definitely challenged our community of readers - we were averaging 18-20 attendees each month, but we only had nine people turn up to discuss this one, and not everyone had finished reading. That being said, those nine people LOVED this book! No one was able to read this book quickly, but they all agreed that each sentence should be savored.

We enjoyed discussing:
- The role of music in this novel - we wished it came with a CD or at least a digital soundtrack to listen along!
- The author's descriptions of how written Chinese characters changed with the political climate, and the nuances of those changes (ie how one extra stroke can change the underlying meaning of a character)
- The Book of Records - what was the significance of this collection? Was it simply a means of conveying information covertly, or was the story equally important?

(As the facilitator of the book club, I was the lone dissenter - this book took me six painful weeks to read, and I would have abandoned it if I hadn't had to lead the discussion!)

Jcheng1234 Apr 24, 2017

A vibrant and powerful writing on what 2 talented families of musicians went through from Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution to 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Though it is not an easy read, translation of the Chinese characters and poems, musical pieces and terms, if you persevere, you would enjoy it.

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