Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
27
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"At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; Sparrow's ethereal cousin Zhuli, daughter of Swirl and storyteller Wen the Dreamer, who as a child witnesses the denunciation of her parents and as a young woman becomes the target of denunciations herself; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai's daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story."--
Publisher: Toronto :, Alfred A. Knopf Canada,, [2016]
ISBN: 9780345810427
Branch Call Number: FICTION THI
Characteristics: 473 pages ; 24 cm

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From Library Staff

List - BC Authors: Fiction
WVMLlibrarian Apr 01, 2015

Set in Vancouver in the 90s, this novel follows 10-year-old Marie and her mother after they invite a Chinese refugee into their home.

In 1989, Marie Jiang (a 10-year-old girl in Vancouver) loses her father to suicide. A short time later, Marie and her mother receive Ai-Ming as a visitor, a teenage girl who claims to be the daughter of one of her father’s close friends. The story cascades from Vancouver to China and back again, ... Read More »

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WVMLlibrarianCathy Mar 19, 2017

This beautifully written book revolves around two Chinese / Chinese-Canadian families from the 1950s to present day. Each generation encounters common themes of music, loss, memory and record.

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 in the mid-twentieth century, and the children of the survivors who became the student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989— one of the most i... Read More »


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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.

d
dirtbag
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.

h
hRuth
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.

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