Hardcover, 160 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Random House Canada
I offer you
The life I have not lived
The dream I can but dream
A soul I’ve left empty
During sleepless nights
As I go to you I hold as an offering
The poem I have not written
The ache towards which I strain
The colour of the cloud I haven’t known
The longings of silence.
Mãn by Kim Thúy is one of those books that is sparse on words and heavy in emotions. I am not sure whether the style is common to all books written in French or unique to Kim Thúy but I liked it. The novel is about the titular character Mãn whom we follow on her journey from Vietnam to Montreal, Canada to Paris and then to Canada again. We dip into moments in her life when she connects to people in more than one way. Through her eyes, we see her adopted mother’s life in war-torn Vietnam, we meet other victims of the war and we experience through them all, the pain that comes from living through such turbulence.
The attention to food is great and I’m sending my copy of the book to a Vietnamese friend who, I feel, will relate more to the book because of the food than to the story but we’ll see.
The book has incredibly beautiful prose at times but I admit that I found it difficult to connect with Mãn because so much time passes where we just glimpse her life, not really connecting with her but skating on the surface of her life. Her relationships with her new friend Julia and then with the Parisian chef all seem so removed from the realities of life. So while I did think this book beautiful and poignant, I think it is one you admire in a museum rather than taking home with you to snuggle up with. If that makes sense.