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2016 Longlist [MBP] > Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

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message 1: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
Discussing Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.


message 2: by SibylM (new)

SibylM (sibyldiane) | 26 comments This book isn't released in the US yet, but I really want to read it. Even though it hasn't been published here, a few copies have made it across the pond and found their way into libraries, and one is on its way to me via interlibrary loan -- from 2,000 miles away or so! I could have bought it from bookdepository.com, and it really isn't terribly expensive, but I'm happy to save money where I can. I'll report back when I've read it.


message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (topaz6) Always great to see a Canadian nomination! Hopefully I can get to this one soon!


message 4: by B. H. (new)

B. H. (barbara_63) | 29 comments Is it just me or this book has been incredibly hard to find? I can't wait to read it but everywhere I've look it says it will take a minimum of 1 to 3 weeks to dispatch


message 5: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Is it just me or this book has been incredibly hard to find? I can't wait to read it but everywhere I've look it says it will take a minimum of 1 to 3 weeks to dispatch"

Same problem here... It is available as e-book, though.


message 6: by SibylM (new)

SibylM (sibyldiane) | 26 comments I got this book in my hands today via interlibrary loan -- thank you University of New Mexico! I am going to start reading later today and will report back when I've finished.


message 7: by Trudie (new)

Trudie (trudieb) I guess I was quite lucky that this book was available from my local library here in NZ and so it was the first book I read off the long list.
I launched into reading this with great gusto but it is with sadness I have decided to hit eject at around the midway point.
The scope of this book is impressive as it sets a multigenerational saga amongst the political backdrop of China over a period encompassing almost the last 100 years. It feels like an important novel but as a general reader I was just not up to the task of the musicality in this - there is poetry and classical music interweaved in a complex story that hops dizzyingly around in time and place.
I look forward to seeing what others make of it as I have not ruled out attempting it again if I can be convinced it is worth the effort.


message 8: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments there is poetry and classical music interweaved in a complex story that hops dizzyingly around in time and place

I have to say, that makes it sound like my kind of book! I will get to it soon, so let's see.


message 9: by Trudie (new)

Trudie (trudieb) Yep, I think this will appeal to readers with musical souls ? Maybe those who enjoyed Richard Powers Orfeo as I was reminded often of my struggle with that book while reading this one !!


message 10: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Makes sense. I liked Orfeo a lot.


message 11: by SibylM (new)

SibylM (sibyldiane) | 26 comments Just finished this today and I liked this book very much. 4 stars. I admit to skimming through some of the more in-depth stuff about music, poetry, and mathematics, and focused more on the story. I do love a good multi-generational family saga, and this one had a different location and history that I didn't know that much about, so I found it very intriguing. I thought the writing was beautiful.


message 12: by Neil (last edited Aug 07, 2016 12:56PM) (new)

Neil | 511 comments I'm about a third of the way through. I think I've managed to get the relationships between the characters sorted now! It's bringing back memories of books I read earlier this year: The Four Books and The Gold Bug Variations


message 13: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments I've just finished this and, as suspected in my comment above, I really, really loved it. My fifth book from the long list and the first one to which I have give 5 stars. My review is here.


message 14: by Robert (last edited Aug 10, 2016 11:24PM) (new)

Robert | 363 comments So far I'm fifty pages in the book and I'm getting immense pleasure reading it. I like the way strands of family history are introduced into the narrative. Neil, I remember you asking about the significance of sparrows in The Four Books and it seems that sparrows have made their appearance again.


message 15: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Yes, I noticed that!


message 16: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Oh, dear, oh, dear... I so want to love this, especially after Neil's 5* review. But - 50 pages in - I think the writing is quite bad, sentences like "Ma pinched the bridge of her own nose" (not somebody else's nose, no, her OWN nose) or "Sitting across from her I could see that she really was nineteen" (how can you see whether somebody is nineteen, and not eighteen for that matter?) rub me the wrong way...
I hate myself!


message 17: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Hah! Well, I never noticed that! I think I said in a comment somewhere else a few days ago that the first few pages left me very confused until I had drawn a family tree, so I think my mind was on that kind of thing at the start and by the time I was in a position to think about the actual words at all, I was already sold on the story so not worried.


message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments This is what I find interesting - different views. I didn't notice these things, really at this point the story itself is engrossing me - I like the idea of a meta narratives!


message 19: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments This is what I like about a group like this - different views. I don't think anyone has yet persuaded me to dislike a book I enjoyed, but there have been several times when I have had to re-think books I didn't like.


message 20: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Neil, Robert: yes, indeed, different views are always interesting! And the discussions in this group are fantastic.


message 21: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Well this doesn't help: pages 123- 154 are missing (and pages 155 - 186 are double). Sigh. Anybody else having the some edition? (Granta 2016)?


message 22: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Oh no! That's not good. I read a Kindle edition and it was ok. At least, I don't remember reading the same bit twice!


message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments i didn't have that problem and im on pg 215


message 24: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I am unfortunately rather disappointed with this book. I had high hopes for it (too high, maybe?) and the raving comments by some of the other group members fueled my interest even more. But I ended up not liking it much, mainly because the writing didnt appeal to me at all.


message 25: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments I'm starting the second section. I admit there are points where I find some of the detail unnecessary, however as a disclaimer I was not able to read much these past four days and that affected my view of the book but now I am enjoying the way the novel is progressing. I do prefer the bits from Marie's point of view.

So far I see this as a novel that is better when read a second time as there are a lot of plotlines which become clear when proceeding with the book. There were times when I would flip back and re-read passages.

For some strange reason, I can't help imagining that Do Not Say We Have Nothing would have been ideal for last year's list. Structurally though, I keep on thinking of Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

At this juncture, Do Not Say... and The Sellout are contenders for winning the prize


message 26: by Trudie (new)

Trudie (trudieb) I would be struggling to draw comparisons to "The Narrow Road To The Deep North" but maybe that is because that book is one of my Booker favourites and this one I could not make any headway with.


message 27: by Robert (last edited Aug 17, 2016 08:33AM) (new)

Robert | 363 comments Hmm I compared it to narrow road as it documents a violent historical era, jumps back in time and does focus on the main protagonist ,who bears the brunt of history.


message 28: by Kathe (last edited Aug 19, 2016 02:38PM) (new)

Kathe Coleman | 46 comments Spoiler: I have given a brief overview of the book along with my review so please don’t read if you don’t like to know about the plot before you read. Happy reading.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
An epic saga covering three decades of the history of China from the time of the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao, to the slaying of over a thousand college students at Tiananmen Square at the hands of the communist government, to present day. It begins in Canada in 1990 when nineteen-year old Ai-Ming, reeling from the atrocities at Tiananmen Square, come to stay with ten-year old Marie (Li-Ling) and her mother in Vancouver. Ai-Ming and Marie’s father, both accomplished musicians, had studied at Shanghai Conservatory and had been very close friends. Marie’s father had just recently committed suicide and Marie was trying to come to terms with this loss. . .A-Ming was the missing link. Difficult to read as it covers not only sixty years but had to create a character list (a family tree) to be able to follow the relationships between the characters. It jumps back and forth in time so not a casual read as I really had to pay attention. I love challenging books and really did not want this one to end. Enticing plot, well drawn complex characters and fascinating historical information about China’s most turbulent years. Not for everyone but 5 stars for me.


message 29: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Kathe wrote: "Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
An epic saga covering three decades of the history of China from the time of the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao, to the slaying of over a thousan..."


Kathe - I am glad someone else enjoyed it as much as I did - I also gave it 5 stars.


message 30: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Coleman | 46 comments I have a question. Marie's mother seemed to be only referred to as Ma in the book. I was looking for a connection to her but didn't see where Kai had married anyone.


message 31: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Kathe - I agree - the family tree I drew has no name for Marie's mother.


message 32: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments The answer to that is on the last page :)

Just finished the book and enjoyed it - clever, complex and... well educational as well. Like I said before a big contender for the prize.


message 33: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Coleman | 46 comments Neil wrote: "Kathe wrote: "Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
An epic saga covering three decades of the history of China from the time of the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao, to the slaying of ..."

I am a very eclectic reader and have really enjoyed this year's choices. Different genres, writing style and challenging which I love. Have read all but two that are still not available. Does this group take a poll on the MB before the announcement of the short list?


message 34: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Kathe, there are some short list predictions over on the long list discussion within this group. I have posted my thoughts there.


message 35: by B. H. (new)

B. H. (barbara_63) | 29 comments I have to say, I skipped lunch to finish this today and I absolutely loved it, from the very first page.

It's interesting to see how things that I really enjoyed from the book made it so unappealing to others. For the instance, I found her writing to be poetic, but not fluffy (which has really turned me off some books in the past). The way she weaved together poetry, maths and music, and the ties between zero and infinity. Just beautiful and heart-breaking.

I am a strong believer that what makes a book deserve five stars is not just the plot, or writing, but sometimes those details that you glimpse in between the important scenes, the moments where the authors just let their characters live for a few seconds unencumbered by any larger meaning. This book was full of those moments which made me like as much as the larger philosophical questions it posed.

I might be a bit biased when it comes to the story of this book. So many parts of it reminded me of the stories my parents used to tell me about growing up in communist Albania. So many chilling similarities.

I am clearly rambling as I just finished this book and have not had a chance to quiet down and organise my thoughts.


message 36: by Ernie (new)

Ernie (ewnichols) | 66 comments I'm not sure if anyone has read or heard the following, but I wanted to share a brief interview with the judges (Amanda Foreman (Chair) and Abdulrazak Gurnah) on why books on the longlist made the longlist.

Madeleine Thien (Canada) - Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books)
“A multi-stranded tale that comprises experience, memory, music, and loss in China’s turbulent 20th century.”
Gurnah: It’s a wide-ranging book which covers a very important period in the history of the world. And it’s also a very interesting book because it’s not just about China. It’s also about migration. It’s about resourcefulness that is required of migrants and how to live in Canada, and the way memory lingers and the way memory has to be addressed and has to be sorted out, which is also a burden that most migrants have to work their through. So, many of his themes are contemporary. It’s not just about China. It’s not just about music. It’s about how people cope with dislocation, about how people cope with things that are apparently beyond their reach, but which never leave them alone.


message 37: by Trudie (new)

Trudie (trudieb) Ernie wrote: "I'm not sure if anyone has read or heard the following, but I wanted to share a brief interview with the judges (Amanda Foreman (Chair) and Abdulrazak Gurnah) on why books on the longlist made the ..."

Thanks for adding these Booker judges comments in Ernie - I find them really useful to attempt to understand why these particular books made the longlist ...


message 38: by Julianne (new)

Julianne Quaine | 35 comments I've just finished this and have given it 5 stars. Outstanding contender for the prize in my view. A heart-rending story of love, loss, family, remembering and music. How people respond in different ways to a brutal regime and the longer term consequences to themselves and their future generations really drew me in. The reference early on to za ji - 'things that we never say aloud' that are recorded in private places and by the time we discover them it's to late - really set the theme of the book for me. It also puts in context the Tiananmen Square massacre - and leaves one to wonder what the Party has in store for the future of the world's most populous and soon to be richest country.


message 39: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (topaz6) Just finished this one and I'm glad to say I loved it! I loved the multigenerational points of view, the music, the stories within stories, it all really worked for me!

Thien has such lovely writing and manages to infuse all the different sections and time periods/generations with such a great atmosphere that really seems to give you a sense of what people like all our characters may have lived through.

I think this is a clear contender for the shortlist, what a beautiful book! It's also really nice for me to read some historical fiction from that time period as (if the facts all check out) it gives me some perspective on the events and the causes of such a famous world event.


message 40: by Doug (last edited Sep 05, 2016 09:40PM) (new)

Doug | 78 comments I was actually rather dreading reading this, the 12th of the Booker longlist from this year I've now read- a nearly 500 page novel on the Chinese Cultural Revolution? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Kill me now! However, although the politics play an integral part of the story, it never overwhelms one who has just a very rudimentary knowledge of the past 100 years of Chinese history. Not having much knowledge or affection for either classical music, nor mathematics, which are the other salient topics, might also have impeded my enjoyment - but Thien's epic won me over with its central triangle of characters who are all stymied from realizing their life's passions by the various totalitarian regines that come to power, fade out, and then are renewed with even more horrendous results. Sure, the book could have stood a couple more judicious edits, especially in the first half (as well as a copyeditor who wasn't half asleep!), but the book grows in power and emotional involvement. I am fairly sure it will make the shortlist, and would not be either surprised nor disappointed if it took the prize.


message 41: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) This book is on the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller prize that was announced today - http://www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/f....


message 42: by Charlott (new)

Charlott (halfjill) | 39 comments This my favourite on the list (even though I still have three unread books here, I think I can make this statement). I really, really loved this book.

This is an incredible book inhabited by an abundance of memorable characters. The book looks at history and narratives like at music, asking if there might be only a few themes which are played in different variations over and over. It asks what is a self, when all your thoughts, ambitions and dreams are hidden beneath trauma and compliance. The narrative is beautifully crafted (and in itself reminiscent of classical compostions, i.e. ending with a coda), but is also gripping and deeply sad.

The book made me listen to lots of classical music, which I had not listend to for a long time. It made me fall (back) in love with Shostakovitch, which is a great win in itself.

I admire the structural choices of the book, the language (the way she writes about music and mathematics), but also the complex characters. This book has so many layers but still is also just a really engrossing read.


message 43: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (grauspitz) From the moment this was announced as a Man Booker Nominee, I had high expectations for this book and fully expected this to be my favourite of the bunch, mostly because it sounded like a book I'd pick up normally.

I was definitely not disappointed. At the beginning I found the writing hard to get into but eventually I found it flowing over me so easily, as did the numerous amount of characters that I was sure I'd mess up.

I'm not that musically inclined of a person and yet this book still worked for me! Will definitely be adding this to my personal library at some point!


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