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Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,226 ratings  ·  389 reviews
Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.

Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her fa
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Little A (first published April 1st 2018)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

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When asked to describe my literary tastes, the quote from Lydia in Beetlejuice comes to mind: "I myself am strange and unusual." I'm drawn to weird books, the more outlandish the concept or the more mixed the reviews, the better. Oh, I like NYT best-sellers as much as anyone, because I'm a curious cat at heart, but what really gets that rush of anticipation through my veins is the idea of reading something super strange and freaky. #FFOM
Julia Wesley

I normally shy away from memoirs. They make me feel like an ambulance chaser. Also, how do I trust them? Memories are so flexible, influenced by emotion and our own brain’s desire to protect itself. How do you fit an entire life in 230ish pages? And such a tumultuous one at that?

I don’t know. I have no desire to do it myself, and even if I did, I’m positive I couldn’t do it with even a single iota of the poignancy Barnes does. The boasts of lyrical writing are not overinflated. She has som
Joy D
Memoir of the author’s childhood growing up in Manila in a turbulent home environment. Her family was wealthy and lived in a mansion; however, the Gulf War drastically impacted her parents’ business and they descended into poverty. She subsequently experienced many traumatic episodes and was forsaken by those who were supposed to protect her. As a warning, this book includes child neglect, animal cruelty, and domestic abuse.

I enjoyed learning more about the culture and history of the Philippine
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started reading this at the beginning of the month when I was recording a memoir episode. It didn't make the cut for that episode (which won't be posted until May) but I feel like I came back to it with a fresh chance and a little more filipino history under my belt. Early on some of the writing was really bothering me (I started marking all the uses of would've and should've, which felt overused and obnoxious at the beginning; when I came back to it I was just paying more attention to the sto ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was somehow an easygoing read, yet harrowing. It’s truly is lyrical, almost poetic, oddly. Considering Barnes has had so much time to think about her past, to carry such a heavy weight, she is able to detail the chronology from riches to rags, physical (and metaphorical) deterioration of her Mansion Royale, to her present day. This book comes in as a light and steady rain, but as it goes on, you get thrown into the storm.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This memoir by Cinelle Barnes about her childhood and coming of age in late 80s and 90s Manila is what Crazy Rich Asians should have been—a more socially conscious (especially about class and ethnicity) look at the lives of the affluent.

It took me a while to get into this memoir, partly because it started off pretty slow, and partly because my mind was distracted by work stuff. The writing is confident and consistently good, but about halfway through the book, the narrative started taking bette
Ciara Wilkie
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-physical
This novel was very hard for me to read. While my childhood wasn't nearly as traumatic as Barnes's, I could relate in many ways.

This novel is poetic. Beautiful prose clashes with the ugly reality Barnes lived through. What starts out as a fairy tale becomes twisted and dark.

What I enjoyed about this memoir is that Barnes got out, and much like The Glass Castle there is a sense of hope. Barnes doesn't choose to be bitter, instead accepting this happened, but she doesn't have to be like her moth
Kudos to authors brave enough to tell the world their truth. This memoir of a young phillipino girl (ages 3-12) is filled with privilege and trauma and I don’t wish to take away from her experience. However, I did not warm to its telling. The lyricism and never ending descriptions drove me nuts. Memories from my very early years are like clouds, reach out and they disappear but that could just be me.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most beautiful book I have read this year. It is a gift. It gives one hope that all will be right on the morrow. It is a gem. It is very very precious. Taste it in the narrow of your bones and savor it.

I hope this sista keeps on writing. The world is blessed to hear her voice. I read it in one day and could not stop until it ended.
"My mother is a mansion [...] My mother is the land [...] My mother is the monsoon [...] Breaking into a million pieces. I was drowning in a monsoon of her."
This memoir describes Cinelle Barnes' mesmerizing and painful childhood in the Philippines, driven to a large extent by the unstable personality of her mother and dysfunctional relationships within the home when an economic downturn and a monsoon flooding of their mansion leads to financial and social decline of the family. The flowery and o
(I am going to be slightly guarded here because I believe the authoress will be reading my perspective.)

It is true story written by a creative writer who grew up in the Philippines and currently lives in South Carolina/New York.

I have always been fascinated by this country although I have never visited it.

This proximate memoir opened a world I knew little about.

She is a tough one, stronger than most, as are many Filipinos that I have met.

The strong feminine bent in her telling is also somethi
Krysty Dimas
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Overall Rating: 5 stars

I finished this book about 3 days ago, and it's taken me a while to gather all my thoughts cohesively enough to write a review that was everything this book deserves. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, and I was recovering from the realest book hangover.

Before I even opened the book, I felt a connection with the author (Cinelle Barnes) and her story because she is Filipina. I am Filipina-American. And although my time in the Philippines is limited to 2 vacations: 1 for
Nia Ita
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

This moving and thought-provoking memoir by VONA alumn, Cinelle Barnes, was magical. Cinelle tells her story of moving into a mansion in the Philippines when she was three years old. A mansion purchased by her mother’s inherited wealth and her working father’s oil industry money. Stricken by a monsoon and financial struggles, Cinelle’s home literally and figuratively begins to fall apart. Eventually, she is left in a decaying mansion with only her mother and an abusive step-father. Th
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is okay. I got it for free through Kindle First instead of my usual choice of thriller, to diversify a bit. The author definitely has weathered many storms (and monsoons, literally) and there’s a great story here, but the writing was too overwrought and flowery for me. She paints evocative landscapes and ties the physical and political destruction of the Philippines to the personal damage she experienced growing up, but I couldn’t really get into it.
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely stunning. This is by far the best book I’ve read to date this year, and it’s certainly going on my all-time Favorites shelf. Barnes’ memoir of her rollercoaster childhood in Manila and subsequent triumphant quest for solid ground left me stunned. This is a MUST READ!
Jamise | Spines & Vines
What a beautifully written memoir. Cinelle Barnes gently peels back the layers of her life in the Philippines living in the lavish Mansion Royale. Her family basked in their opulent lifestyle, indulging in all of the finer things. But the Gulf War sends the family into poverty and her life becomes a living hell. ⁣

A monsoon floods the mansion, her father leaves and their home is taken over by her mother’s wicked lover. The mansion becomes a haven for criminals, gambling (cock fighting), prostitu
Sachi Argabright
I could not put this book down! My discussion group wanted to talk about this book in two parts, so I had every intention of reading Part 1 and then stopping until I discussed with my friends. Needless to say that didn’t happen! Barnes is so genuine and sincere in her writing, that I immediately cared for her well being and wanted to know what would happen to her. The book is beautifully written, and illustrates the vast differences in her lifestyle over the span of many years. Lastly, I appreci ...more
Goth Gone Grey
An inspirational memoir, made of light

I enjoy memoirs, exploring the world from the comfort of my couch, snuggled in under a warm blanket with a cup of hot tea. The cover art and brief synopsis intrigued me for this book, which was a compelling read.

As the story starts, the narrator is young, in the Philippines, a privileged girl in a mansion with servants. Her mother enjoys fine things, name brand clothing, while her father works hard to provide for them and her brother. The text is rich, lush
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m still in awe of how beautifully the author penned this heartbreaking memoir. The craft is so amazing that at times I had to remind myself that I was not reading fiction..and those were the moments that rocked me to my core. I had the pleasure of meeting this author in an intimate author event setting and connected with her briefly afterwards for a short conversation. I hung on to her every word..amazing how resilient she is after all she has endured in her early life ...I see so much more co ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

Monsoon Mansion is a powerful memoir of the author's experiences growing up in Manila. Parts of it read like poetry, parts like fairy tales, and some of it is imbued with great sadness. Cinelle's parents lived the high life in the Mansion in the 1980s.There were grand parties, dozens of maids, and the finest of everything. When all the money was spent, the mansion continued on, trapping Cinelle in a nightmare existence with her mother, her mother's lover, and a variety of motley characters.
The h
Christine Sorrell
Mesmerizing and amazing!

As an American born Chinese woman, this book touched upon so many facets of my own life, especially since I too have a
mother who has been broken and made into a narcissist because of her family’s loss of prosperity due to her native country’s political unrest and turmoil. The author’s colorful and poetic description of the Philippines even reminded me of my upbringing in Malaysia. I too am living in the Carolinas after meeting my husband (an NC native) and feel a pull to
Kaytee Cobb
This story feels unbelievable at times. Like, can this all have really happened? But Cinelle Barnes admits right at the beginning that, like most memoirs, some characters may have been combined and some details may have been changed, and childhood memory isn't always the most reliable, but this is a real memoir with real stories about her childhood in the Phillippines. And it doesn't disappoint in terms of drama, suspense, and even horror at the atrocities she faced growing up in a crumbling man ...more
Zeyn Joukhadar
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The bravest memoir I’ve ever read, MONSOON MANSION tells the story of Barnes’ finding her way through a labyrinth of hunger, pain, and cruelty during her childhood in the Philippines and yet still managing to find joy and kindness in those she came across, never losing herself along the way. The writing is gorgeous, luminous and self-assured, a first book from a writer who is sure to become a major new talent. Cinelle Barnes is made of light, a gentle warrior and a survivor, and it was an honor ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
A powerful memoir of neglect and abuse set in the Philippines.  The daughter of a cruel, narcissistic mother and a kind, driven, and ultimately absent father,  Cinelle Barnes grew up in a mansion in Manila. Her mother was the epitome of snobbery and entitlement, based upon the belief in her own birthright of class and inherited social standing. In her unstable mind, she deserved a life of luxury and the deference of her many servants. A stunning beauty, her vanity knew no bounds, with much of he ...more
I won this Kindle book in a Goodreads Give-a-way. Thanks to all. This was a heart-breaking memoir of a young Pilipino girl who grew up in a wealthy family in a glittery mansion. Before long, there are problems in the mansion and "riches to rags" memoir is unfolding before her eyes. After a terrible monsoon devastates the mansion, the father leaves the country to try and make his fortune elsewhere. At this young and tender age, the author is basically on her own along with her brother. There is a ...more
Cinelle Barnes lived a very dysfunctional childhood in Manila. Yet through this book and the love of her husband and mother-in-law she was able to rise above.

Even though her mother was unstable (at best) Cinelle still is able to say:

I owe my creativity, resilience, resourcefulness, and passion to them both—the very traits that make me a writer. My mother was brilliant and my father was ambitious, and I channeled much of their personas through the completion of this book.

The book covers the time
Amy Ingalls
This memoir is full of beautiful, poetic prose, which is really jarring considering that the author is writing about the horrific abuse and neglect that she experienced during her childhood. Sometimes this distanced me from the trauma that I was reading about, and I had less of an emotional reaction to many of her experiences than I usually would.

I have very rarely disliked someone as much as I did the author's mother, and I love that Cinelle Barnes tells her daughter, "It is better to miss her
Teri Pardue
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An achingly beautiful memoir. Tracking Barnes’ story: a girl three years my junior growing up just kilometers away from my own home was fascinating and meaningful. I learned a little bit, but mostly I enjoyed getting lost in her lyrical prose and surreal imagery that so well captures elements of Manila life for many.

“The water at the well smelled rich, not of chlorine, but minerals, the scent of a waterfall cutting through the stench of the ghetto’s imburnal—sewage canal. Water from the spout hi
Lori French
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Had I never lived in the Philippines, I think I would have found the story to be sensationalized and trying too hard to be dramatic. But after living there for 28 years, I found the story compelling. Her self-centered, spoiled-rotten mother who believes herself to be above holding an honest job or working for herself is far too real. The desperate need to maintain an image of wealth and status when the mansion is crumbling around them can be seen again and again in the city of Manila. The unques ...more
Daina (Dai2DaiReader)
This is an amazing book and I am officially a fan of Cinelle Barnes (am I late to the party?)!  I always hesitate to say a memoir is “good” because I'm sure it’s not easy to write about something traumatic that happened to you.  But, what I will say is that this book is a lyrical work of art! 
You know how sometimes you read a book and wonder what happened to this person or you want more of an explanation as to why someone did what they did or acted a certain way?  Well wonder no more. This book
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Cinelle Barnes is a creative non-fiction writer and educator from Manila, Philippines. She writes memoirs and personal essays on trauma, growing up in Southeast Asia, and on being a mother and immigrant in America. In 2014, she was nominated for the AWP Journal Intro Award for Creative Non-Fiction, and in 2015 received an MFA from Converse College. She was part of the inaugural Kund

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