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Dogs at the Perimeter: A Novel

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,025 ratings  ·  172 reviews

The first novel by the Man Booker Prize shortlisted author Madeleine Thien— “beautiful, deeply moving . . . addresses universal questions” (The Independent).

Set in Cambodia during the regime of the-Khmer Rouge and in present day Montreal, Dogs at the Perimeter tells the story of Janie, who as a child experiences the terrible violence carried out by the Khmer Rouge and loses everything she ho/>


Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,025 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janie is a researcher at the Montreal Neroulogical Center, but she was once known by different names in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She once came from a middle class family, had a father, mother, brother, until War came, and Cambodia became the killing fields. Made to leave their home by the Khmer Rouge, her life and family will never be the same.

Haunted by the memories of the past, and the atrocities committed at the hand of the Khmer Rouge, Janie falls apart. Leaving her husband and youn
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
This is my second Thien novel, after Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which was my personal favourite book on the 2016 Booker shortlist. Like that book, this one is deeply immersed in history, this time exploring the brutal period when the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia, and as such it is not an easy read, but it is a profoundly moving one.

The story is held together by Janie, who was born in Cambodia but eventually escaped and lives in Canada with a husband and son she is separated from. She wor
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the psyche of war
I wanted to go home but this was as close as I could bring myself, floating by sea, floating in air.

So this is how it feels, when you read a book you'd like to write, a book that exposes a similar experience or feeling. We war survivors are a disjointed group, traversing normalcy while carrying the ones we left behind, the ones who left us behind. Sometimes we find each other, the similarly wounded, and we talk about the past, careful to avoid the details; we generalize stories because remembering
Annabel Smith
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, pwf2013
I should start by admitting that I rarely read books with this kind of harrowing subject matter because I find them too distressing. But there is a gentle beauty to Madeleine's writing that enables you to keep reading, despite the atrocities being described.

Like Elliot Perlman's The Street Sweeper, and Kim Scott's That Deadman Dance, this feels like one of those stories that absolutely needs to be told. I had no idea of the scope of the genocide committed at the hands of Cambodia's K
3.5 stars. This is a less ambitious, accomplished novel than Do Not Say We Have Nothing, but it’s got its own disjointed grace and eerie power. It follows two Canadian adults who lost family to the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and takes you down a twisted path of searing memories, discarded identities, and ghosts who walk alongside the living. Thien’s writing, although overwrought in isolated moments, is mostly sparse and powerful. It’s a hard book to get into because most of the frosty, fr ...more
Friederike Knabe
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
"We had to sign our names to these biographies, and we did this over and over, naming family and friends, illuminating the past. My little brother and I were only eight and ten years old but, even then, we understood that the story of one's life could not be trusted, that it could destroy you and all the people you loved." Evicted from their family home in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, by the Khmer Rouge, Mei and her family are forced to follow the long and arduous trek through a devastated co ...more
That atrocity could be documented in writing of such lyrical delicacy is an achievement that enabled this reader to bear witness.
Sometimes confusing, the splintered arc of the story mimics the confusion of war and emphasizes the insidious reach of what is vaguely known as post traumatic stress disorder. There's hope in the message I got, that in spite of the unspeakable things that war inflicts upon people, inner peace is possible when we face our demons rather than try to deny them.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

‘I remembered beauty. Long ago, it had not seemed necessary to note its presence, to memorize it, to set the dogs out at the perimeter.’

This was my first Madeleine Thein book, not having read her more famous Do Not Say We Have Nothing and although I admired the writing and was interested in learning about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, this wasn’t quite as successful as I expected.

The book is initially set in Canada, where Janie a former Cambodian citizen who fled the countr/>
Gin Jenny (Reading the End)
A beautifully written book about the aftermath of genocide for several people who were caught up in it. At times, I struggled to follow which timeline was currently happening -- flashback or present day? -- and the plot moved pretty slowly. Not a perfect book, but a vivid depiction of choices, compromises, and identity under an autocratic regime.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
discordant and puzzling. reminded me of the dazed dreams i have before actually falling asleep.
Lauren K
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dogs at the Perimeter is an emotionally charged story about the lingering effects of the Khmer Rouge war in Cambodia on fictional characters Janie, Hiroji and James. It’s a short novel at just over 250 pgs.

The story is set in 2005 in Canada and is told in first person account by the protagonist, Janie, a Cambodian woman who has separated from her patient husband Navin and kind-hearted son Kiri. Janie is a lost soul, with an unresolved past stemming from her early experiences as a victim o
Alvin Loong
My mom is a Cambodian refugee, my dad is Malaysian, and naturally, this novel was obligatory reading for me. Asian American/Canadian authors have been on the rise recently, with Khmer authors especially resurgent after First They Killed My Father (Luong Ung, 2000) was made into a film by Angelina Jolie last year.

Thien worked to align a narrative of diasporic life in modern and quiet Canada, with the roots of internecine chaos from a 1970s Cambodian childhood. She skims the surface of the horrors at t
Beautifully written, complex, and thoughtful novel about the impact of war, disappearance, and genocide. The protagonist, Janie, is a young electrophysicist and mother in Montreal, who arrived in Canada as an unaccompanied child refugee from Cambodia. Her mentor disappears, and she is convinced that he has gone to search for his long-lost brother, who vanished in Cambodia during the genocide. Janie's own sense of self begins to fracture, and she has trouble reconciling the different 'selves' she ...more
Rena Graham
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a follow up read after breezing through her first book - of short stories. This novel is far different and definitely not as breezy to read. I felt it to be more dense, more studied and more exact. Some of the metaphors Thien uses make my head spin, wondering how she could have come up with something so apt. The title is perhaps the most telling one of all as it tells of how the protagonist learned to live her life, through hardships unimaginable.

Annabel Lyon said "Madeline Thien write
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
A beautifully written book about haunting and harrowing effects of genocide, war, and loss, during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the late 70s. Written in fragments, about fragmented lives and fragmented relationships in a fragmented country, Thien blends beauty and atrocity, with seamless fluidity.
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OH MY GOD! Madeleine Thien; you have such beautiful prose! If you wrote a technical manual, I bet I would still read it.
Cristina Lai
What I learned from Thien's previous works is to just embrace the haziness of her narrative - the nonlinear, the impossible - and you will also find moments of intense clarity in the dreamscapes. I especially appreciated the revealing/progression of Janie's story. On one hand I wished her bonds with Navin and Kiri were elevated more, but I also think that keeping the focus on her story reveals more about the specific difficulties in bearing and suppressing trauma as a woman. The intangible aspec ...more
Arthur Van Erps
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A collection of interwoven stories concerning three souls who were severely affected by the war in Cambodia. Especially the arc of the main character, Janie, was gripping in its painful details and gave a glimpse into how sad life is during wartime. Overall the book contains beautiful passages and extraordinarily crafted sentences that were so poetic I reread them multiple times. There is some discontinuation between parts of the book which possibly could be bothersome to a few people. Not for m ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exploring the deep, long-lasting trauma that follows historical atrocities, this book follows a Cambodian who escapes to Canada, and a Canadian who travels to and becomes trapped in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. There are some gripping passages, but the book becomes scattered in places and more intellectual than heartfelt. Despite its inconsistencies, it is a worthwhile read.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
Although, I think Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a better book, Dogs at the Perimeter is good, and similar to the aforementioned book in it's style. What I like is that the book is set in Cambodia during Pol Pot's reign of terror.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fascinating read by Madeline Thien!!! In this one, the impact of being caught up in the war in Cambodia in the mid-70s, has Janie, starting to come undone, along with one of her colleagues who lost his brother in Cambodia at the same time. The back story is heart wrenching and powerful with great redemption in the end. Read this!
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really stunning story of trauma and identity. It ended so abruptly, though - I didn’t feel prepared for it.
Lidi Steffen
Really liked the story, confusing as it might be, specially because I was visiting Cambodia in the meanwhile, it gave more insight of the cruelty this people suffered and the strong need they have.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
This is the kind of novel that generates its own light. Madeleine Thien's writing - about trauma, grief, loss of self, war, memory, and kindness - is lovely beyond measure.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Searching, often harrowing, gently hopeful novel.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd like everything by Thien to be published in the United States.

My BookPage review
Nina R. Birnbaum
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
painful but what an impressive writer. I would read anything by her
Enchanted Prose
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Broken memories, broken souls, and a broken country (Montreal 2005; flashbacks to the Cambodian genocide 1975-1979): Madeleine Thien is a literary star in Canada. She ought to be one in America too.

If only Dogs at the Perimeter was dystopian fiction. Yet historically, Thien’s searing novel really did happen. Which makes her sensitive approach to telling horrific history more laudable.

Thien focuses on the psychic trauma to survivors of unimaginable horrors when “nothing seemed real.”
This is part of my "238 books in 238 days"-challenge. You can follow my progress here.

Once again, I find myself not really knowing what to say about a book depicting the aftermath of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Contrary to "The Disappeared" (*) however, Madeleine Thien's protagonist is not a young Canadian girl in love, but a woman that has escaped Cambodia as a child and is now being haunted by memories.

Janie has built a life for herself, working at a Brain Research Centre, and having a husband and a
Dogs At The Perimeter is a flawed novel.

Loosely, it is about the separation, dislocation and loss of identity caused by the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. We open in Vancouver with a woman, Janie, a neurological researcher looking for her colleague, Hiroji who has gone missing some three months earlier. Both Janie and Hiroji have ties to Cambodia – for Janie, it was the country of her childhood; for Hiroji it is where his brother disappeared in 1975.

What follows are a seri
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Madeleine Thien was born in Vancouver. She is the author of the story collection Simple Recipes (2001), and three novels, Certainty (2006); Dogs at the Perimeter (2011), shortlisted for Berlin’s International Literature Prize and winner of the Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2015 Liberaturpreis; and Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016), about musicians studying Western classical music at the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s, and about the ...more
“After surgery, he told his doctors that the pain was exactly as it was, but he did not feel it as greatly. “It’s as if,” he had said, a cool blandness in his eyes, “the pain is not being done to me.” One day, maybe in a ten years, or fifty years, a surgeon will be able to do this with disturbing precision, destroy a whirlpool of memory, an entire system of feelings, but in the meantime it’s like taking a hatchet to a spider’s web.” 0 likes
“By early 1979, the border area is a dead-eyed, stinking hell. He signs on as an aid worker with the Red Cross and they give him a stipend and a room. In January, the Vietnamese Communists crossed the Cambodian border, swept the Khmer Rouge aside, and took Phnom Penh in less than two weeks. The refugees wash up in their black clothes, so debilitated and disturbed that Hiroji thinks he is walking through an exhumed cemetery, they are more soil and sickness than human beings.” 0 likes
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