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The Tapestries: A Novel
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The Tapestries: A Novel

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  557 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
In THE TAPESTRIES, based loosely on the life of the author's grandfather, who, in the early 1900s, was a professional embroiderer in the court of the last king of Vietnam-Kien Nguyen has reimagined his grandfather's amazing story to weave a tapestry of his own-a stunning and page-turning novel. Dan Nguyen is seven years old when he witnesses his father brutally beheaded by ...more
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Published December 14th 2008 by Back Bay Books (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lynne
Jan 15, 2009 Lynne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lynne by: no one...sucked in by jacket
Shelves: 2009-2010
This was a heavy handed "romance" set in Vietnam of the early 20th c. I found myself skimming to be done with the characters who were flat, improbable, and spoke with clunky emotion. I'm not sure why I finished it, except that I was interested in the setting.
Deborah
Jun 12, 2009 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating and spellbinding book. From the first page it captured me. The writing is smoothe and hypnotic, and the story is "told" as if you were sitting at your grandmother's feet by a fireside. I love this book.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
One star, yikes, I should have known better than to read this book. But I wanted to read something set in Vietnam and written by an actual Vietnamese person about Vietnamese characters--not by and about Americans who fought in the Vietnam War--and this fit the bill. Unfortunately that was the only bill it fit. (What does that mean, anyway, fitting a bill? What kind of bill are we talking? Anyway.)

This is a wannabe-epic tale, set in early-20th-century Vietnam, of a boy whose family is killed, and
...more
Chrissie
I definitely liked The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood, written by the same author, more than this book. This hbook seems more of a novel, more of a fairy tale, although the author says it is based on stories about their family told by his grandfather. If one likes a novel with more emphasis on plot rather than character analysis, this might be a better choice. Somehow I never quite got attached to the characters. Neither did I think the grandfather's belief that one should appreciate life, get ...more
Jessica
Nov 09, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took this book as the author's presentation of the stories (possibly fables and fairytales) that his grandfather passed on to him.

Taken that way, it was a great book. The story was entertaining, historical, sad, and crazy all wrapped up together, and yet it worked.

The pre-arranged marriage, the history of Vietnam, the greed and betrayal and revenge, the desire to flee and the desire to love...all those were introduced into the story, and you'd think that it'd just be too much. Too much politi
...more
Miss-Moon
Sep 18, 2007 Miss-Moon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: high school students
I LOVED this book! This book is a story about Kien Nguyen’s grandfather’s drama filled life. WOW, what a tale! It’s like a fable come to life! Revenge, betrayal, love, and loyalty is what this book is all about. There was so much sorrow in the book that at times I would read the book tightly in my hands. Some of the occurrences are so Shakespearian that I forget it is all set in Vietnam!

What I love about this book so much is that I am looking deep into a character I thought was minor. How many
...more
Nicole
Jul 22, 2011 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took about 9 or 10 chapters for me to actually get fully into this book. While I understand the author's purpose of the first few chapters, it seemed to drag a bit. However, if you're willing to stick it out and give it a chance, it'll redeem itself and turn out to be a great read.
Andrea Leigh
Although this book was really good and really interesting, I found that a lot of the parts sort of just drag along. There was a lot of unnecessary explanations and more description than was needed, and it made me not read the book nearly as fast. Overall though, I did really enjoy the book!
Sapphire
May 06, 2012 Sapphire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, favorites
I have never read any story about Vietnam so this book was the first in line.

The story line is beautifully crafted with much effort done on each character's portrayal, their strength and weakness and their reason for living.Each character in the book is a hero, the courage that each character has is subtle. As you go on reading the book you will realize that love, responsibilities, courage probably has no limits.

The story is set in 1916.
Dan Nguyen, a seven year old gets married to a 24 year old
...more
Stefanie
Dec 21, 2012 Stefanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really liking this book and was ready to give it a 4 or a 5, probably a 4 because it did tend to digress at times into details that to me seemed unnecessary, but then it always pulled itself back quickly and was an engaging story . . . right up until the last 50-100 pages. Then, somehow, the story I thought I was reading became something else entirely. The main narrative got sidelined for the purpose of hi-lighting a character that previously seemed to have little to no significance in the ...more
Anna Engel
Here's a quick summary of the people in Dan's life:
- His mom is a ho
- His dad was a pirate
- His wife is WAY older and kinda crazy
- His lover runs away to join the opera
- His neighbors hate him
- The mayor wants to see his backside (but not for the reason you thought of first)

The only ones who seems to like Dan, at least conditionally, are a court eunuch and the mother of Dan's lover's dead suitor…and she's dying of cancer.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book, but as the story went on, I found myse
...more
Karmen
A wonderful find amongst a thrift store splurge.

Set against the twilight of the French occupation of Vietnam, we find the successful Nguyen family beset by a jealous rival - Magistrate Toan. Setting is Cam Le Village, a fishing village.

The story is about Dan Nguyen, youngest child of Tat Nguyen, a very successful fisherman & businessman., and his third & most favored wife. He soon finds himself abandoned by his mother as his father is arrested for plotting against the French protectorat
...more
Rebecca Hill
Nov 25, 2011 Rebecca Hill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An adventure through one boys complicated life from 7 years old to late in his adult life. The author is great with descriptions, creating vivid locations and developing the main characters with thought and care. The evil men in the book are so evil; I couldn't even cheer or be relieved in their demise. The happiness Mouse finally finds is hard earned and cherished all the more. It was nice to see Asian female characters which did more than let the men around them rule their lives. Out of the th ...more
Marilyn Saul
Not exactly what I thought it would be. More of a Romeo/Juliet tale. A little slow at the beginning, but picked up steam and had a somewhat satisfactory ending. I really can't say I learned much about Viet Nam during the turn of the 20th century. I kept envisioning the Imperial Palace as being in China, and I suppose there was quite a bit of Chinese influence, so I shouldn't have been surprised about being unable to distinguish Viet Nam from China. Again, it wasn't a history, but I am intrigued ...more
Sorcha
Nov 04, 2011 Sorcha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, dnc, asia
Put this down last week, half read, to complete another book. Reached a passage that makes me think I've read this book before (although I have no recent details if I have). Suspect that I'm not going to pick this book up again to finish.[return][return]What I read was reasonable, although not completely engaging. A 7 year old boy, married to a much older woman, witnessess the death of his father, and in order to protect him in plain sight, his wife places him in the service of the man who kille ...more
Kasia
Mar 20, 2012 Kasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Niezwykła opowieść o Danie, który jako siedmiolatek poślubił starszą o 17 lat Ven. Ven dopiero po ceremonii poznaje Dana i odkrywa, że została bardziej opiekunką/ służącą całej rodziny niż żoną. Losy rodzinny komplikują się, kiedy asseor Toan postanawia pozbyć się wpływowego ojca Dana. I jest to dopiero początek tej wspaniałej historii.
Książka wciąga od pierwszych stron i miałam problem, żeby oderwać się na dłuższą chwilę od lektury.
Oprócz fantastycznie poprowadzonej fabuły, bardzo ciekawe jest
...more
Monica
Dec 22, 2015 Monica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian, historical, vietnam
Star crossed lovers, pirate treasure and a Taoist treasure map, family feuds, evil magistrates, noble peasants, revenge, abandonments, reunions, redemption, rebirth. It’s a fine melodrama told in florid language . It's quite an operatic contrast to Nguyen's sparsely elegant memoir, though the story is based on tales told to the author by his grandfather.

There is a lot that is interesting - particularly the historical descriptions of life in central Vietnam in the teens and twenties of the last c
...more
Arianne
This book started out great. The writing was rich and colorful, and I was instantly sucked in. Old world Vietnam was such an intersting setting, and the characters were vibrant and very interesting. But the story kept getting more gruesome and violent until it was pretty much a horror story by the end. Actually, I never got to the end. With only a few chapters to go, I gave up on it. It deveated so widely from its beautiful opening chapters and became bloody and vengeful. I just couldn't stomach ...more
Rezzie
My favorite character in this book will always be Vein, a very poor, unattractive and imperfect girl. She was married to Dan when the latter was only seven years old; to be his babysitter. In this way, the family will save from hiring a nanny and the responsibilty to take care of the child. If Vein could have a thousand lives, she could have offered these to Dan all over again.

The story is poignantly woven to touch souls.
Kim
Mar 04, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting story taking place in the early 1900's in Vietnam. It reminded me of "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" with regards to the family heirarchies, the mistreatment of people considered to be lower in status, and all the traditions/superstitions that took place during that age. The story line is completely different than those books as it revolves around the life of a man and not a woman. I enjoyed it!
Ann L.
Nov 06, 2015 Ann L. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could not, for the life of me, connect with the characters in this story. I made it to page 99 and I just felt this story could not be finished. There were no emotional connection between the characters. They were so cold and distant with each other. The author makes good use of the English language in that being he is Vietnamese his writing skills are impeccable, but the story itself was too hard to understand and follow.
Mom2nine
Jul 23, 2013 Mom2nine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"This story reminds me of the short tales told in the Amy Tan books, but this one encompasses the entire book. It is hard to know what is fact and what is fiction- it is all bigger than life. It is a wonderful remembrance of and to his grandfather.
I had never read any stories about Vietnam from that time period, seems it is a country that has not had many books about it. Nguyen is changing that. If you enjoy books about other cultures and time periods Nguyen's writings are for you.
Jo
A woman in her twenties arrives in a village on her wedding to day to meet the husband arranged for her. When he's brought to the wedding chamber, she discovers he's only 7 years old. What follows is a relationship that is more mother and son than husband and wife until a tragedy separates them. This is based on a series of stories told to the author by his grandfather and portrays life in Vietnam in the early 20th century. I was fascinated by some of the aspects and enjoyed the writing style.
Carol
Apr 14, 2009 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nguyen's first novel is based on his grandfather's experiences. He writes eloquently covering greed, honor, family loyalty, power, love, revenge. My thought is that the story no doubt is based on reality - even the greed and revenge no doubt. But I'll have to admit that is not the story I want to read.
Laurel Deloria
Travails of the last son and a blood fued at the end of the French occupation

This epic tale of romance and revenge immerses us in the world of a spirited young boy in turn-of-the-century Vietnam: Dan, who is thrust into an arranged marriage at age seven, who secretly witnesses his father's beheading, who escapes certain death by being sold into servitude
Belle
The premise of the book was very promising and I would've rated the book higher if I hadn't had such hard time getting through the second half of the book - the beginning was great but the rest of the story turned out a bit too slow.

Note: 2016 Reading Challenge - A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with
mica-micare
Dec 22, 2014 mica-micare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a beautiful story, told with a great deal of care, although it moved along rather quickly at times. It tells the fictionalized story of the author's grandfather, his devoted first wife, and his father's family. As the story unfolds, it is lush with descriptions and details that give it a vibrant texture.

Barbara
Aug 21, 2009 Barbara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Starts slow but is getting more interesting. It's about a young Vietnamese boy at the turn of the century. The boy's father is killed and to save the young boy, he's secreted into the killer's wealthy family. There he falls in love with his mistress, but is discovered and threatened...
Karissa
Oct 25, 2009 Karissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficton
I have only read one or two books similar to this. I really liked it. Greed. Honor. Family. Power. Love. Death. Revenge. Very intriguing. His first book, Kien Nguyen, way to go. I think I will read more of his novels, such as the Unwanted, a memoir.
Lisa
Apr 23, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
it was a good read, but as with Kien Nguyen's memoir, the lives of the Vietnamese are startlingly brutal and primitive for the last century. Difficult to suspend disbelief in this tale, which reads more like a folk tale than a novel.
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Kien Nguyen was born to a Vietnamese mother from a once wealthy family and her American civil engineer lover. His mother's family, who had lost their wealth when the French left Vietnam, lived among neighbors who treated them as pariahs because of their colonialist background. Kien, a child of mixed race, was especially ostracized from the community.

He left Vietnam in 1985 through the United Natio
...more
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