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The Boat

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  4,584 ratings  ·  648 reviews
A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterly display of literary virtuosity and feeling.
In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  4,584 ratings  ·  648 reviews

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Cindy Pham
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The production quality, art direction, sound design, and every other thoughtful decision that went into crafting this interactive web comic is what pushes this story to 5 stars. I think if I had read this story in a traditional format with just the text, I would have rated it 3 stars, because the short length and choppy writing don’t provide much context for the historical setting or enough to make me emotionally connected to the characters. However, the craft truly enhanced the story to make it ...more

I was delighted to find this book of well-written short stories by Aussie author Nam Le, who arrived here by boat as a refugee from Vietnam when he was only one.

These eight stories are all quite different from each other and Le speaks in many voices from different countries, all believable: Vietnamese, Colombian, Japanese, Iranian, Australian.

I think my favourite is the young Aussie lad in the fishing family with the sick mum. Football, a girl, bullies, a jetty, a struggling dad
Jun 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
*sigh* Where do I even begin with what went wrong with this book. It started off so well. Certain scenes are so well described that I was really invested as a reader. However, I hate the way he ends each story... or rather, doesn't.

The first story felt like a good introduction chapter to a novel, except it's not a novel it was just a short story on its own. In turn it made the story have a horrible ending with a quick sum-up of what the character understood from the events in a few sentences.

✨    jamieson   ✨
dnf at page 205 (with 2 short stories to go)

I read the first story in this collection for uni and I really liked it. I wanted to read more of Nam Le's short stories, because why wouldn't you when you really liked one.

I can say for me the first short story, the one I'd already read, is the best one. It gripped me and piqued my interest and I've actually read it 3 or 4 times now. Really like it

But none of the other stories were really grabbing my interest. And the thing is
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I have to admit, I am still ten pages from finishing this book, but I can't do it anymore! With the exception of the first story, this book bored me to tears. I give it two starts instead of one, because Le is a great writer. At fear of sounding like a literary agent, I will still say that I couldn't relate to any of these characters or their lives. And this is because the writer didn't make it easy for me to relate to them. Le is an excellent writer, but a horrilbe story teller. He never drew m ...more
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
"Faulkner, you know," my friend said over the squeals, "he said we should write the old verities. Love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."

This quote is planted square in the middle of Nam Le's opening story, a metafictional conceit that allows the author to address the reader directly about how ethnicity and the immigrant experience can both confer a special status on an author while also becoming a crutch, hobbling his imagination.

That's precisely
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended to leynes by: Cindy Pham
Based on a narrative by Nam Le, The Boat tells the story of a young girl's arduous journey from Vietnam as an asylum seeker. It is the first interactive webcomic that I've ever read and I am in awe at the production quality and the thought that went into the design and formatting. I especially enjoyed the soundtrack and how it enhanced the scenes at hand.

The feelings of claustrophobia and the inhumane conditions on the boat really came across through the hauntingly beautiful music and fi
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
like Bon Iver's debut album of last year this book proves that sweet art will make its way when it's at it's least eager. a quiet, brilliant idyll. each story sent me on a one hour walk around the canyons. the first one and the last one were my favourites and 'halflead' could've been a winton short from 'the turning'. im officially jealous of this vietnamese australian master-craftsman.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Please take 30 minutes (on an iPad or computerx not a phone, mobile doesnt quite work)and scroll through this dynamic webcomic. Even if you're like me and not a huge fan of most graphic novels or comics, just take 30. The design is INCREDIBLE, the use of sound and music highlighting every moment of this, and the inventive use of comic panels that reacted to the reader scrolling down as well as to the sound effects is just goddamn brilliant.

THe story too, is poignant, though it didn't quite gras
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
These are quite simply some of the most amazing stories I have ever read. I am not typically an avid fan of short stories. I typically find them little more than character sketches (like E. Annie Proulx's Postcards) or short scenes that are surely a part of a greater whole but simply leave me with a literary hole. But Nam Le has done something amazing with most of his stories -- they smack of realism, the characters are full, the stories hold up on their own and are not just false starts of nove ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It takes me four years to thoroughly finish this book.
I read the first story four years ago and love this author since then. People in the west tend to consider Le as an immigrant writer because of his unusual personal history. They consider all those exotic stories fantastic and people born and raised like this somehow have the duty to write about these things, people they'll never meet, lives they'll never live and burdens they'll never carry. It makes sense that people tend to be curious abo
James Barker
7 stories. 7 decades. The US. Colombia. Japan. Iran. Vietnam. Somewhere in the mix the voices break, voices merge… this Aussie writer of Vietnamese origin needs to narrow his horizons.

The stories are book-ended by the two that are concerned with the Vietnamese condition during and after the War. They have varying levels of success, although the first ('Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice' - a quote from Faulkner) wins out in its consideration of what should
Declan Melia
The second collection of short stories I've read since records began. The first was Borges' Labyrinths, which is a completely different kettle of fish so lets consider this the first. If you like short story collections as I do then this book should be at the top of your to read list. Each of the eight stories are at once remarkably different, absorbing and completely transportive. Le is an Australian of Vietnamese heritage living in New York and this collection is suitably cosmopolitan. In addi ...more
Nicholas Buzanski
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The Boat is a breathtaking & heartbreaking work of literary genius. Each of Nam Le's stories are a world so completely real & realized that they feel like a living, breathing being. His understanding of human emotions know no boundaries of age, race, country or gender & is only overshadowed by the beauty & mastery of Le's writing. For those who do not read short stories, please do not let that stop you from picking up this book; each story is a novel in itself. The intensity of c ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No, I haven't finished this book in the traditional sense, but for now I think I'm done with it. Before going any further I want to say that the author is good. In fact Very good. Many times I found myself wishing I could write with such depth, such empathy. The first three stories in this collection I really enjoyed. The latter three for some reason lost my interest. Anyway, the issue is not with the author but with me. I didn't have the patience to appreciate it.
I hope one day to do Nam
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Theres no denying it - Nam Le is an incredible writer. His poetry background is blatantly obvious in the prose. Its just a shame none of these stories left any impact on me. The concepts and ideas are interesting but I really struggled at times to stay engaged. Also had a bit of an issue with his female characters throughout - found them particularly one-dimensional.
Aug 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why did I give one star? But before I say anything with regards to the rating that I gave, I want to summarize this book by magnifying the things that I think signify each short story in it.

1. The Blazing Gasoline Drum for Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice
2. Grenade for Cartagena
3. The Concert Hall for Meeting Elise
4. Home for Halflead Bay
5. Letter & Planes for Hiroshima
6. Candle for Tehran Calling
7. Sharks for The Boat<
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Beautiful. Disturbing. I just read an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book and was particularly impressed by Le's ability to create characters that all convincingly inhabit so many different landscapes and cultures. I was expecting a more specific cultural tone or flavor from this book--but the stories and persepctives are radically different, and are able to stand alone as their own worlds, which to me signals an astounding stylistic range--clearly the writer could have stuck with just one ...more
Brian O'Riley
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a gorgeous book. The writer's dexterity in moving from geography to geography is itself a reason to read it, and my favorite is the last story, the titular "The Boat" (also the longest), in which a young girl is fleeing Vietnam after the war. The story ties in brilliantly with the first one in the collection, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" (best short story title ever), in which the son of a Vietnamese refugee is trying to write his father's story. Le's ...more
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Beyond the opening story, this is a fairly forgettable collection. After the third story it became a chore to read and after the dreadful Halflead Bay it became a penance to even look at the thing.

The writer definitely has skill and - I believe - a bright future, but it seemed to me that he still is developing his talent. Despite not really enjoying this collection, I will keep an eye out for future work from him.
Katarina Norrgård
I'm not sure I can find words to describe what I felt about these short stories. I read up on the author, and realised to my horror that this is his only released work to date. I would love to read more by Nam Le! The book contains seven short stories that span half the world and tell the stories of very different people. The stories themselves seem to be magical, because no matter if the characters are a fourteen-year-old hired killer in Colombia, a Vietnamese girl in a refugee boat in the Sout ...more
May 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The seven stories in Boat, all interesting, almost all superb, a compelling and very impressive first collection by Nam Le, made me think of In Our Time and The Dubliners as I read. Not quite as perfect as The Dubliners, nor as fresh and startling as In Our Time, but a collection that even as you are reading it for the first time you know you will be reading it again and again. Le, born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, displays an interesting range w ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
I'll admit it. I sort of fell in love with this book's cover as soon as I sawl it on the New Fiction table at Bailey/Coy. I hemmed and hawed, picked it up and put it down, then finally let Michiko Kakutani and Mary Gaitskill convince me to fork over the $25. What I got from these stories, initially, was a really strong McSweeney's vibe. I couldn't quite put my finger on why this was, but the feeling was sustained, and eventually I figured it out. In the first story, Le writes about a writer stru ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I feel like I should have enjoyed these stories much more than I did. There's no denying that Le is a talented writer able to distill a time, place and situation down to essentials but something put me off of this collection.

It begins with a meta piece about a Vietnamese American writer in the Iowa program who needs to finish his workshop story and since "ethnic literature" is popular decides to write his father's story. In other words, a story about writing a story. The actual story tells both
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
This is a book for those who believe that well-constructed art is not just what's nice to look at, but that which effectively causes the observer to feel. It's an extraordinarily poignant collection of stories about far-flung places and times that starts with a memory of Vietnam, penetrates the dark world of Colombia's slums, and accompanies an adolescent boy in a remote Australian fishing village as he navigates the dichotomous journeys of losing his mother and experiencing his first love. It w ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
great scenes and some muscular, resonant narrative building, but just couldn't get into this. i think i need more careful language than this offered, and i got irritated by the self-absorbed, "masculinist" voice in some pieces which left me looking for a foothold into the story. also, i just don't understand why the pieces needed to range all over the friggin' globe. i mean, what made this cohere as a collection? (i guess i need to muster the patience to read the whole thing through . . . .) see ...more
Sep 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had heard good things about this book and then picked up a copy at the home of a misguided amorosa and started reading. Straight away I thought damn, this cat can really write! The amorosa ended badly, though I did get a short story out of it, which I dictated into my Nokia later on the steps of the Newtown schule. Through all the regrets I still couldn't get Nam Le's beautiful prose out of my mind (everything happens for a reason perhaps?) so I finally bought it. Let's hope the majesty of the ...more
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it
The last book of short stories I remember staying with me this way was Jhumpa Lahiri's _Interpreter of Maladies_ and only on a second read. And, in the same way I felt inclined to weigh her stories against one another, I do the same in looking at Le's book. While not all of the stories in Nam Le's book prove to me to be of equal caliber to one another, I appreciate the type and variety of character detail he has managed to achieve in several of the stories. His longer stories do this better than ...more
Clare Cannon
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adults
A novel made up of seven personal stories of immigrants from different times and places and religious backgrounds, all of which involve significant physical and moral suffering. The stories do not resolve, which leaves the reader in sombre - perhaps confused - contemplation. There is frequent bad language, and several of the stories have rough and graphic sensual description.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was really quite an amazing book from a young first time author. He managed to capture the different cultural voices of his characters in his stories so well. Whilst sometimes confronting and depressing the stories were definately believable and clearly drawn from his own experiences as a migrant/boat person.
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Nam Le came to Australia from Vietnam with his parents, when he was less than a year old, as a boat refugee. He went to Melbourne Grammar School and the University of Melbourne, from where he graduated with a BA (Hons) and LLB (Hons). His Arts thesis supervisor was the Australian poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe. He worked as a corporate lawyer and was admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2003/20 ...more
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“The thing is not to write what no one else has written but to write what only you could have written.'
I found this fragment in my old notebooks. The person who wrote that couldn't have known what would happen: how a voice hollows how words you once loved can wither on a page.”
“The thing is not to write what no one else could have written, but to write what only you could have written.” 3 likes
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