Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

A Novel

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: FICTION Thi
Characteristics: 473 pages ; 25 cm


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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.

Apr 21, 2017

I agree with the previous opinion of brianreynolds. Difficult read (tedious) but I persevered because I feel it is important to TRY to understand these historical facts and experiences.

brianreynolds Apr 16, 2017

Entering into a book is in many ways what reading is all about for me, and I’m happy to say I finally did make it there with Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing; I did ultimately enjoy it. For whatever reason, it was not a easy book to enter. The twin story lines took quite awhile to evolve into something recognizable to my tired brain. The rather athletic effort to somehow translate the written word into both Western and Eastern music was lost on my tin ear. The careful explanations of the layered meanings of Chinese characters seemed tedious. I will take the blame for losing my way in the multiplicity of characters with multiple names and terms of endearment and family relationships; people with better memories will have less trouble I’m sure. But, yes it was worth it in the end: I went to modern day China. For free.

Apr 16, 2017

It took me two tries to get through this book. The first time I thought it was just too sad to finish, but th characters stayed in my mind and I’m glad I gave it another go. Following a Chinese family through the Cultural Revolution and the Tienanmen Square massacre evolves very powerful images of the strength of an ordinary family. It well deserves its place on the Booker Prize shortlist.

Apr 10, 2017

Poorly written, and far too long. The characters were weak, and the relationships weaker. Musical, ideograph, and math themes added nothing to story. There are Chinese writers who have written much better works about recent Chinese history.

Mar 21, 2017

The book further confirms that Thien is a gifted writer for sure. The quality of the writing is high. However, the story line, the subject matter, and the ways they are told simply fail to engage me. And no, I did not finish the book.

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