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Certainty

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Madeleine Thien’s stunning debut novel fulfills all her early promise and introduces a young novelist of vision, maturity, and style.

Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries in present-day Vancouver, finds herself haunted by events in her parents’ past in wartorn Asia, a past which remains a mystery that fiercely grips her imagination.

As a child, Gail’s father, Matthew
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Emblem Editions (first published 2006)
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Alden
At its most essential, Canadian writer Madeleine Thien's resonant, richly textured first novel, Certainty, explores questions of how possible it is to know another person, even a person we love, and how to live with that uncertainty.

Beginning in present-day Vancouver with Ansel, a physician wracked with grief and guilt after the untimely death of his 39-year-old partner, Gail, Certainty unfolds through overlapping narratives that follow twining streams of memory to North Borneo during the brutal
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Kyla
Ah - award winning Can Lit. Yawn. If it is multi-ethnic, multi-generational, is written poetically and is dull as dishwater - bring on the Canadian Writing Awards! Of course I love Canadian writing but this is SO completely Can Lit pleasing and not interesting at all. The only bits I liked were the ones set in Strathcona because I recognized the neighborhood.
Tiffany
Nov 22, 2008 Tiffany rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who appreciate the beauty of the written word as an artform
If I wasn't so obsessed with keeping my books in such pristine condition, I would have read this book with a highlighter in hand, ready to set apart those passages that demonstrate the written word as a true art form. There were many, some that moved me to tears, which hasn't happened since I read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, one of my favourite books of all time.

Thien clearly has enormous talent; as stated on the back of the book, Thien has a flair for imagery, and I wholeheartedly agr
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Colleen
The book starts with the present day, in Ansel’s voice. He has suffered the loss of his partner, Gail, who has died recently at the age of 39. From this point we go back and forth, to Gail’s parents’ pasts during the war, to Gail’s recent trips abroad, and then back to the present. We jump from Borneo to Holland to Australia to Canada. All this is accomplished through the narratives of the various characters.

The stories, and how everyone’s lives are interconnected, were interesting and I was nev
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Andrea
Not worth working through the 300 pages. The book had the potential of being interesting with the need to uncover a mystery and I would even say I liked the way it was written in flashbacks. But the characters were lacking. The were several times where I would stop and ask who are we talking about this time? And the plot with Gail seems incomplete. I feel as though there's more to the story that was forgotten. Disappointed on this one.
Pilvi
This was such a boring book. Throughout the book I kept thinking what was the point in the story, but it never occured to me at all. I don't really understand what the writer wanted to tell with this book, so in my eyes it's completely useless. There were some parts that were written nicely, but that's about it.
Ann
I found it hard to pay attention to this book. It was an interesting story but told mostly in flashback. The characters changed so often that I was unable to form much connection to any of them. I do not recommend it.
Sobia Be
hmmm... where do i begin ? 3 reasons made me picked up this book. 1. the obvious picture ( i have the other cover book ) of a boy pedaling a bicycle with a native girl with a pink flower & skirt at the back who has that curious look looking behind from a familiar landscape . 2. the caption at the cover " Brought together by war , torn apart by love ." 3. Alice Munro review ..... & after finished reading it i must say this is the classic example of never judge a book by its cover ! Suppos ...more
Amy Do
I realized that I liked this book more after my second time reading it. A year ago I gave it three stars, feeling that it didn't live up to "Simple Recipes", but I've changed my mind after spending another month re-reading the story. That rarely happens to me, but in this case, Madeleine's beautiful writing became even clearer and more intricate after I revisited the book. I felt like I was reading an entirely new novel, with new depth and dimensions of emotions unfolding themselves within Thien ...more
Gerund
The opening of Canadian writer Madeleine Thien's Certainty is one of the most exquisitely-crafted passages I have read in a while. Still half-asleep, a man rolls towards his sleeping lover. But this is only "what was to have been the future", and by the end of the passage, as the man sits drinking coffee while the sun rises, you realise that his lover is not there, that she lives only in his memory.

Nominated for the Kiriyama Prize, which recognises books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia, thi
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Craig
I found this to be a wonderfully written novel but terribly sad. The story involves multiple narratives and two different love stories. The setting shifts continents/countries (North Borneo, Canada, Australia, Netherlands), time periods (WW II to present) and cultures but in a smooth well woven manner. The novel deals with war, grief, love, betrayal, choices, regret, life, death and to me loneliness and perhaps isolation. I was very moved by the story and the writing.

The novel starts with two e
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Mallee Stanley
Certainty is an emotional ride due to lost love, separation from loved ones due to war, and the unforgiving nature of others. Matthew is unable to deal with his past in war torn North Borneo, sending his daughter, Gail, on a journey to Holland, to understand his reluctance to reveal his earlier life. With her own death, she leaves not only her father, but Ansel, her partner of ten years, dealing with the empty shell left in their lives.
zespri
This story weaves backwards and forwards between the years, as Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries in Vancouver, tries to uncover her parents past in war-torn North Borneo.

Her father has left his home country to escape the stigma of his father's involvement with the Japanese, and this seems to be the theme of the book - unresolved loss and how we handle and eventually find a way to come to terms with it.

For her father, it is a return to Sandakan and a meeting with a woman who is also a
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Joyce M
This novel for me has got to be one of the saddest ever. It's just incredibly heartbreaking to read what happens between Ani and Matthew and how they were unable to fully move on from their past and from each other their whole lives and how it affected the people around them. What makes it all the more heartbreaking is that they grew up together and all throughout the book you sort of have a nostalgic feeling for them.

After reading the book a long time ago i've completely forgotten about it unti
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Fadillah
Do I love it? nahhh. It was okay though, frankly speaking. Maybe I am biased cause I don't enjoy fiction much. I kind of lost focus at the beginning of the book actually. I just couldnt feel the connection between Ansel and how he grieve over gail's death. There are at some point, this book can be drifted into a lengthy of description over sad, pain and loneliness felt by all characters in the book ; Ansel, Gail, Matthew, Ani, Clara and Sipke. It is a bit depressing. Few chapters in the book kin ...more
Patricia L.
There were some exceptional insights in this book. I had a little difficulty following and staying in the book early on, then pop I was there.
Skate Penny
A wonderful tale of pasts and secrets, of lives woven together despite distance and oceans amidst.
Wisewebwoman
I guessed "the secret" only a wee bit in and found the writing irritating and I could not invest in any of the characters. Dropped at page 160. Life is too short for books that are a slog for the reader.
Denise Loveless
Anxious to see what the other people in my book club thought of this book. Sad story from start to end.
Beth
The author deftly moves back and forth between various characters' perspectives and between different time periods, from WWII to the present. At first I found it a little unclear when she'd get into a new context/setting in media res, but I quickly became absorbed by the stories and the characters, and the change in perspective became clear. An impressive first novel.
Jo Barton
This book meanders between present day Vancouver and 1945 North Borneo as we shadow the relationships between Ansel and Gail,juxtaposed with Ani and Matthew. Intense love and loss is evident throughout the narrative as layer upon layer feelings are stripped bare.
It's nicely written, albeit a bit slow in places, however there are some moments of rare beauty.
Helena
Ajatuksia herättävä ja mukanaan vahvasti kuljettava kirja! Tekstin rakenne tosin oli minusta turhankin haastava, kun kerronta eteni paitsi henkilöstä toiseen, myös maanosasta ja aikakaudesta toseen. Taas kerran huomasin lukiessani, että minulla on paljon aukkoja lähihistorian ja kulttuurien suhteen - onneksi tämän lukeminen paikkaili niitä edes hippusen.
Deux Voiliers
Not as good as her newest novel Dogs at the Perimeter, but nonetheless an excellent story. The plot is both exotic and very emotion-driven. Madeleine Thien is a rising star in North American literature. Keep your eye on her!
Pam Bustin
It’s lovely. Richly textured with the POV shifting from character to character, but...
I was not gripped.
Not wholly.

Sometimes I think it is simply my state of mind.
Matti Kari
suom. Varmuus

Täyttä paskaa, alaikäisen kuvittelemaa ikäihmisten sielunmaisemaa. Naivia, surkeaa! Kirjakerho (ja muut kehujat) petti pahasti. Arvosana oikeasti 0!
e
Jul 20, 2007 e rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: most people
One of my favorites of the summer so far. This book is an interesting tale of a father's history, and how it interweaves with his daughter's.
Jen
This book is a total downer in that it's about sad stuff the whole way through. But it was a fantastic examination of how to handle grief.
Greta
This story is very gentle in tone, with fine detail and intense emotion about Asians and immigrants to Canada.
Canuckgal
Aside from the hype, I thought the book was plodding, sophmoric and given much more credit than was due.
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Madeleine Thien is a Canadian short story writer and novelist.

She was educated at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. In 2001 Madeleine was awarded the Canadian Authors Association Air Canada Award for most promising writer under age 30.

Thien's first book, Simple Recipes (2001), a collection of short stories, received the City of Vancouver Book Award, the VanCity Book P
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More about Madeleine Thien...
Dogs at the Perimeter Simple Recipes The Chinese Violin Finding the Words: Writers on Inspiration, Desire, War, Celebrity, Exile, and Breaking the Rules Six Shorts 2015: The finalists for The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award

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“She says that she held on to the memory as if it were a touchstone, something that could anchor her. She knows, has always believed, that there is a secret that has coloured her life, her childhood. In the last few months, she has felt as if, day by day, she is losing her footing. There are fissures, openings, that she no longer knows how to cover over.” 0 likes
“When she returned, she was full of life, impassioned. She seemed to want change, within herself, between them, and she believed all things were possible. She said that the past was not static, our memories fold and bend, we change with every step taken into the future.” 0 likes
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