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Publisher Description

Winner of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, this extraordinary novel tells the story of three musicians in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

   Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise.
     At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; Sparrow's ethereal cousin Zhuli, daughter of Swirl and storyteller Wen the Dreamer, who as a child witnesses the denunciation of her parents and as a young woman becomes the target of denunciations herself; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai's daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story.
     With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of daily life inside China, yet transcendent in its universality.

Fiction & Literature
May 31
Knopf Canada
Penguin Random House Canada

Customer Reviews

lesevebell ,

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Excellent; very interesting story about China, holds your interest throughput

Sweetlo686 ,

A masterwork!

A brilliant, shining read. One that will make you remember Tiananmen Square and how you should have paid more attention, one that will make you want to listen to Bach and Prokofiev again. Lyrical, emotional and beautiful.

Magnus Maluco ,


Shortlisted “The Man Booker Prize 2016”. Scotiabank Giller Prize winner. Governor General’s Literary awards winner... what a hype. I had to read it.
This book started so well. It had all the signs of a terrific epic and that it was going to be a very emotional journey. At least that was what I was expecting.
Unfortunately I found the structure hard to follow and I was totally disconnected with the characters (all of them), the whole time. There was no dynamic between them, not even between Sparrow and Kai (and I had big hopes for these two).
I had to go back several times to see if I had missed something because most of the time I did not know where I was in terms of time and place or who was talking. Not once I was touched by the horrible and violent events, not because it was not well described, but because it felt too absurd to grasp, even though those things really happened (we are talking about crucial times in China: the cultural revolution, the Mao’s regime and the massacre at Tiananmen Square). Anyways, I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately it did not work for me.

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