The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Updated: Mar 15
An emotional tale of life in Vietnam
My format for this review is going to be a little bit different from my normal format. Mostly because I couldn't think of a great synopsis and I don't like to repost the "back of the book" synopsis. All I could think when I was done reading this impressive story was that The Mountains Sing has simultaneously been the most heartbreaking, eye-opening and uplifting story that I have ever read. This story was an insightful and inspiring look into the lives of women in North Vietnam. ❤
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai was born in Vietnam in 1973, her book The Mountains Sing reveals what life in North Vietnam was like from the 1930's to the present day. This beautifully written novel explores the strength of one family in a country that has been plagued with repeated invasions and occupations, by the French, the Japanese and the Americans.
In this book, we hear the story from alternating timelines. The first is Trấn Diệu Lan -the Grandmmother- who was born into a successful farming family in 1920. The other is Hủỏng -her granddaughter- who grows up during the Vietnam-American War. Hủỏng is raised by her Grandmother when both of her parents leave - her father is a soldier, and her mother is a doctor who leaves to search for her husband. The story that unfolds is not always pleasant. There are scenes that are utterly heart breaking, especially for readers like me, who didn't know much about Vietnam before reading this book. On the other hand, the author does a wonderful job of introducing readers to the beauty of the Vietnamese culture, and of curating a feeling of empathy for the characters - and the real life people who've lived through these events. I am truly astounded by the amount of pain and suffering that the characters in this book went through, yet they still remained strong and held on to hope. Thinking about the real people and the true stories that inspired this fantastic piece of work simply broke my heart. There are so many great messages to take away from this book.
“I don’t believe in violence. None of us has the right to take away life from another human being.”
“The war might destroy our houses, but it can’t extinguish our spirit.”
“If our stories survive, we will not die, even when our bodies are no longer here on this earth.”
“Only through honesty can we learn the truth.”
Thank you to NetGalley, Algonquin Books and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai for the advanced copy of The Mountains Sing in exchange for my honest review.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the blog tour on March 15, 2020 on my Instagram account for this book. Thank you to everyone involved!