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Paradise of the Blind
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1001 book reviews > Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong

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Chinook | 282 comments I’m so glad that the 1001 list lead me to this book, since I was otherwise unaware of it.

The writing is wonderful. The author really drew me back to the sights, sounds and smells of Hanoi - I could at times powerfully recall my trip there.

This book covers not just the subject of the Vietnamese war and its aftermath, but also the export workers to Tussia, a subject I know little about. I think in the West we are so used to the narrative of immigration to the West, especially to the US, and we tend not to be very aware of immigration to other places, so it was good to discover a novel that covers that ground.

But the strength of this book lies for me in the family relationships and particularly the look at what the loss of family members does to the relationships with the few still alive. Watching Aunt Tam and Hang’s mother trying to hold close their remaining family in ways that pushed people away and wanting to hate Uncle Chinh but then being shown why he too was deserving of sympathy made this an exceptional read.

“At the center of these stifling landscapes, on a green carpet of weed, those purple flowers always glistened, radiant in the middle of filth: the atrocious ornament of a life snuffed out.”
― Dương Thu Hương, Paradise of the Blind

Gail (gailifer) | 1532 comments I finished Paradise of the Blind as part of my 2019 TBR challenge for January.

This book allows for insights into growing up in Viet Nam after the US/Viet Nam war and the impact that far reaching communist government policy could have on the day to day lives of individuals there. Our Main Character, Hang, is actually quite lucky to have an Aunt who takes care of many of her basic needs but right from the first page we understand that in general, Hang, is very unlucky. She is unlucky to have a uncle who is part of the Communist elite and therefore has to behave in ways that will stand up to all scrutiny from his bosses and his peers. Further, he is simply not a caring person. She is unlucky that her father, who she never met, was driven from his home by her mother's brother. She is unlucky that her mother is burdened by her brother's family due to traditional beliefs about taking care of people in your blood line. The tension between this bloodline loyalty and what is actually good for individuals in the book coupled with "luck" paints a very interesting picture of family tensions and loving relationships.
The author's writing style is relatively simple and captures much of the tropical beauty of the countryside, much of the horrors of the urban slums and the chilling cold of Russia where Hang goes as an immigrant worker.
I thoroughly enjoyed the read

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
Read in 2015, This book, written by a Vietnamese Woman and translated to English by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPerson, is set in Vietnam and Russia after the Vietnam War with the U.S. and tells the story of Hang, her mother and her paternal aunt and through them tells the story of Vietnam after the war and the emergence of communism. This story starts in Russia where Hang is working as an exported worker in a textile plant and is told in a series of flashbacks in Hangs life. We see Hang as a young girl with her single parent mother wondering about her father. She meets her paternal aunt. Later she meets her maternal uncle and his family. Hang's mother is at first devoted to her daughter but then becomes devoted to her brother's children and spends all she has in her life for them. At the same time, the paternal aunt devotes all her life to becoming rich and pursuing her hatred of Hang's uncle. If it wasn't for this paternal aunt, Hang would have nothing. I really liked the writing (or translated) writing. It was easy to read, yet very descriptive of the land and culture. I liked learning about Vietnam through this women's writing. She wrote under communism. She was also an active member of the communist party but wrote under a libereration of the writer. A freedom to write about the country rather than political claptrap. Later it was banned in Vietnam. I have read other books about communism and books of communism in Asian culture and I just don't get it. It seems so obsurd. I can only think that things must have been so bad to allow people to make such crazy political decisions that seem so harmful. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading women authors of different languages and cultures.

George P. | 538 comments The novel takes us to a time and place pretty much unknown to us- what we know about Vietnam is mostly about the time of the war, and for those in the southern half. Here we are with working-class and middle-class Vietnamese in the time after the war, and the protagonist's time as a guest worker in allied Russia. This is accompanied by some lovely, moving prose and depiction of the emotions of a young woman's struggles. Really well-done and recommended.

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