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The Beauty of Humanity Movement
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The Beauty of Humanity Movement

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,955 ratings  ·  349 reviews
Tu’ is a young tour guide working in Hanoi for a company called New Dawn. While he leads tourists through the city, including American vets on “war tours,” he starts to wonder what it is they are seeing of Vietnam–and what they miss entirely. Maggie, who is Vietnamese by birth but has lived most her life in the U.S., has returned to her country of origin in search of clues...more
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published August 17th 2010 by Doubleday Canada (first published April 6th 2010)
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The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla GibbCatch-22 by Joseph HellerThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl StrayedThe Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
The Shelf Warmers
1st out of 19 books — 3 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai SijieA Fiery Lass by Virginia AirdThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Mist on Bronte Moor by Aviva Orr
Great fiction with great cover art
27th out of 69 books — 3 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Friederike Knabe
"Old Man Hung makes the best pho in the city and done so for decades..." The city is Hanoi and "pho" the national Vietnamese dish. It is a flavourful broth poured over a mix of herbs, vegetables, vermicelli and meat (if there is any). In this novel, pho plays an essential role: the soup comes close to being a companion character, echoing the ups and down of its cook's circumstances. The story of the pho-making cook/seller and his popular soup are not only at the centre of events, they are also i...more
I truly loved this novel. My Husband chose it for the book club at our Unitarian Universalist church, as we try to have a deeper understanding of other cultures. I don't usually join in the novels that this group reads as their choices have not appealed to me, but I joyfully said yes to The Beauty of Humanity Movement and was not disappointed. It was great to share the read of such a beautiful and sensitive story with my husband. It's not another depressing Canadian novel. It has too many redeem...more
Shirley Schwartz
This is a truly wonderful book. It offers insight into life in Vietnam both before and after the communist movement took hold in the northern part of this country. The city that is at its epicenter is Hanoi. We get a first hand look at what life is like for the ordinary people as their country is brought under communist rule. Ms. Gibb uses beautiful language to develop her no holds barred look at how difficult life is for the people during the turmoil. The book is woven around the life of Old Ma...more
this is the fourth book of hers that i have read and there seems to be a sharp division between the first two and the second. Gibb has become 'a serious writer'. her first two, Mouthing the Words, and the Petty Details of So and So's Life are personal stories. stories of an individual. simple and compelling stories, simply told. Sweetness in the Belly, and her most recent, The Beauty of Humanity are set in Ethiopia and Viet Nam respectively - in other words, foreign lands - and she takes on poli...more
I received this book as a First Reads book winner, but I thought I had been forgotten due to the expanse of time it took for the book to reach me. But finally, it arrived!

I have to admit that I initially felt let down by cover art as it illustrates a scene of a Vietnamese male on a sampan. The title alone hints at the intellectual challenge that awaits the reader between the pages. Fortunately, while there is much that presents difficulty in it's explanation of the political history of Vietnam a...more
Joanne in Canada
Jun 02, 2012 Joanne in Canada rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: book clubs
Recommended to Joanne by: Lynn Wilson
As someone too young to have understood the Vietnam War when it happened, I found this an engaging introduction to the history and culture of Vietnam. At first I was annoyed that author Camilla Gibb assumed I knew the basic geography of the country (such as where Hanoi and Saigon were), but that shortcoming was easily rectified on the internet. I also reviewed the major events in the country's history, which oriented me to the political climate during the different periods in the book.

After that...more
Finished this book earlier today and it was fabulous; a very satisfying read. I loved Old Man Hung and everything he stood for: hard work, dedication, loyalty, resilience and an appreciation of the beauty in everything. I can't recall a more likable character in any of my last 10 reads at least. His commitment to the Pho he made every day despite all the obstacles he faced symbolized a lesson all of us need to learn: life is what you make of it and you need to continue to do what makes you happy...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a story about Vietnam - about one of its warring times that the United States had nothing to do with. In fact, the better-known US-Nam war is only mentioned in passing - almost because it actually happened, not because it had any connection to this story. Old Man Hung serves pho to his faithful customers every morning, although he doesn't have a license to operate a business nor does he have a decent location to set up shop. He keeps moving and sets up his stal...more
I liked this book. It is set in present day Vietnam and touches on the history and conflict between the North and South.

The plot is about people living a difficult life in poverty. However they live with integrity and create a community of people that they can count on and who help each other. It is heartwarming to read about.

The book is intertwined with scenes, scents and foods of Hanoi. It brought me to a world that I was not that familiar with and really felt like I was there.
It is beautiful...more

This is not an American soldier war story. The awkwardly titled Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb is a novel that illumines Vietnamese social-cultural history and is set (mostly) in Hanoi featuring mostly Vietnamese characters.

I will never forget Old Man Hung who gives the novel its heart and one of literature's most vivid fictional characters.

Camilla Gibb recommends UNDERSTANDING VIETNAM by Neil Jamieson (1993) for readers interested in learning more about the history of Vietnam.
Karen Butler
How does a person who is not a native of Vietnam write so realistically about a nation, the way Amy Tan writes about China? I had to check the author bio to make sure I was not mistaken in thinking she was not from Vietnam. This is truly clever writing. The only thing that irked me slightly is the adulation and idolisation old man Hu'ung receives, even though he spurns the love of his life at an early age and in so doing makes her life a misery. This is depicted as principled behaviour but is it...more
Absolutely beautiful.

I was stunned by this novel. As a Vietnamese Canadian, unfortunately I've never delved into Vietnam's past on my father's side of the family. After reading this, I have a newfound spark to discover more through books and first-person accounts of their experiences. And being in this situation, I sympathized with Maggie, who is on a journey to find out who her father was after their separation, but is labelled as an outside I've come to care about all the characters in this no...more
Rating = 3.5
Heading = From the Future to the Past to the Present

I had myriad of emotions while reading this heartfelt story. I was grateful to the author for writing a book which focused on the people of the northern part of Vietnam and their need to free themselves from the colonial presences and in the end retained a different yoke on their souls. I was sadden to once again be reminded that war damages people far longer than the conflict itself and is never-ending. I was amazed by the resilien...more
I was reluctant to read this book at first. I had spent the summer reading a lot of chick lit, so this was a switch mid-genre. I'm glad that I opened it up! I love the characters in this book. The author does a fantastic job of portraying the difference between characters who share a cultural history and yet are culturally different themselves. As in the relationship between Maggie and Tu. Both share a Vietnamese background and cultural history, they are the same and different both at the same t...more
Paul Lima
What a wonderful book. Humanizes Vietnam. It could have turned into an anti-American rant, but it does not. It simply lets us know what this poor country has suffered through -- from the Chinese and French occupations, to the war(s), to communism. to the slow return to capitalism.... And it presents a lovable 80-year-old protagonist (a maker of pho, a Vietnamese breakfast soup) who has lived through most of it. He is surrounded by a solid supporting cast. There is a plot, but that is almost seco...more
I read this book for an alumni book club event that I am leading at work. I enjoyed the pacing and the heart of this story. I also learned a lot about Vietnamese culture and history which is a nice added bonus.
Set in post war Vietnam, this is the story of three people whose lives were affected by the war and their post war lives. Old Man Hung had a pho restaurant in Hanoi until the communists took over the country. The dissidents writers and artists gathered in his restaurant to discuss politics and plan their various publications. When all of these dissidents were sent for re-education, Hung lost his restaurant and began selling pho from on a cart on the streets. Tu, a young tour guide, is a close fr...more
Gibb reminds the reader of the harsh realities of rebuilding in the aftermath of war in her historically accurate novel. She carries the aroma of the country's traditional soup throughout the story of an American Vietnamese's search for the artwork of her father, an enemy of the Communist state who has disappeared. It is the story of a group of brave individuals upholding independent thought and freedom of expression in art and poetry during VietNam's Wars seeking independence.
My-linh Ma
Thank you Sajeda for giving me this wonderful book about self-discovery, about my culture and roots, about a young woman who journeys to Viet Nam, a journey not quite like mine, but somehow reflecting much of my experience in this beautiful country my parents call home.
I've never read a book about Vietnam nor its people. I enjoyed the American perspective that the main character brought to the storyline. Overall, I liked it guite a lot, especially the literary and artistic themes.
Anne Heine
Beautiful bittersweet story of Vietnam's complicated history told through the memorable characters. I love a book like this that can let you in on a family for several generations and all their relationships.
I marvel once again at Camilla Gibb's storytelling prowess. In The Beauty of Humanity Movement, Gibb gives us the story of Old Man Hung, pho maker, and the story of contemporary Vietnam. Soup as symbolism for traditional values works well as does the cast of characters that come into contact with the old man -- his shantytown neighbours, the artists and philosophers, Maggie, Tu, Binh and especially Lan. I was totally transported to a place I know next to nothing about, if I don't count news foot...more
Memorable characters in a story that shows us modern day Vietnam and the historical poverty and repression of communism and wars.
I really loved this novel. It is set in Vietnam over the period of the 1950s to present and follows the life a man who makes soup and sells it from a cart around the city of Hanoi. I really didn't know anything about Vietnam or the conflicts/war over there. I want to read more now. I loved Camilla Gibbs' writing but would like to read a book about Vietnam written by someone actually from there. That being said, I will definitely be seeking out more from Gibb. This book is full of life and hope a...more
This was a difficult book to rate because, while it was slow getting going, I loved the central character, and was led to think a lot about the history and culture of Vietnam from a very new perspective. Since I had many peers who faced the draft during the Vietnam war, my previous exposure to the history and culture was a very westernized version and centered on wartime issues. This novel cast things in a very different light and Gibbs very effectively used Hung, the aging pho vendor, to draw t...more
Aban (Aby)
The novel, set in present day Vietnam, focuses on three main characters: Old Man Hung - maker and seller of the most delicious 'pho' (noodles in a clear broth), Maggie - Vietnamese by birth, raised in the USA, who returns to Hanoi to seek information about her father, and Tu - a young tour guide. The lives of these three people interconnect throughout the novel, which alternates between the present and the past (i.e. The 1970's - the time of 'Reunification' and the harsh treatment of both intell...more
I really really enjoyed this book. What a wonderful surprise and change. Characters that you like, flaws and all, happy endings but it all works. Gibb paints a picture of Hanoi then and now from crossing the busy street today to scraping a living together from nothing in a shantytown post revolution. In The Beauty of Humanity Movement, food comes and goes, political systems change, religion offers solace and difficulties, and love is lost and gained.

The concepts may result in a bit of a formula,...more
Modern Vietnam. There are plenty of books about the war, but you don't often see as many about what's going on in the country in this time. Not that this book is a non-fiction by any means. This is definitely fiction, but it still has a unique setting.

Hung is the local pho seller who makes the best pho. He has a loyal customer base even though he only has a cart that he pulls along to different areas and not a store. His store was shut down back when most people were being corralled for re-educa...more
“ can tell a good broth by its aroma, the way it begs the body through the nose” (4).
“Binh really is a son to him, if not by blood, then certainly through his devotion. What is blood without relationship,without life shared, in any case? Hung has come to believe it is little more than something red” (8).
“Tu likes the Canadians, even if their most exciting invention was only the garbage bag. (Really. In 1950 by Mr. Harry Wasylyk of Winnipeg, Manitoba.)” (16).
“Maggie found herself in a world...more

This is a beautifully written and atmospheric novel by Camilla Gibb. Beauty is set in contemporary Vietnam but encompasses a hard look at the cost of the last seventy years of Vietnam history through the eyes of three individuals. In Hanoi, Old Man Hung’s pho is famous. Pho is a soup that is “a combination of the rice noodles that predominated after a thousand years of Chinese occupation and the taste for beef the Vietnamese acquired under the French” and that combination of cultures and conquer...more
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What a wonderful book 1 4 Apr 07, 2014 11:33AM  
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From the author's web site:

"Camilla Gibb, born in 1968, is the author of three novels, Mouthing the Words, The Petty Details of So-and-so's Life and Sweetness in the Belly, as well as numerous short stories, articles and reviews.

She was the winner of the Trillium Book Award in 2006, a Scotiabank Giller Prize short list nominee in 2005, winner of the City of Toronto Book Award in 2000 and the reci...more
More about Camilla Gibb...
Sweetness in the Belly Mouthing the Words The Petty Details of So-and-so's  Life The Penguin Book of Memoir The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life

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“In tourism college they were taught that American notions of what constitutes a personal question are quite different from their own. Tư has learned this the hard way, through responses to questions like: And what do they pay you to be a pharmaceutical representative with GlaxoSmithKline, Mr. Clark? Is this lady your wife or your daughter? Do they have the death penalty in your state of Texas? Why are the insides of your ears so hairy?” 1 likes
“The history of Vietnam lies in this bowl, for it is in Hanoi, the Vietnamese heart, that phở was born, a combination of the rice noodles that predominated after a thousand years of Chinese occupation and the taste for beef the Vietnamese acquired under the French, who turned their cows away from ploughs and into bifteck and pot-au-feu. The name of their national soup is pronounced like this French word for fire...” 1 likes
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