Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

3.92 (21,117 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 
3.92 (21,117 ratings by Goodreads)

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In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming.

As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao's ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China's relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming - and for Marie.

Written with exquisite intimacy, wit and moral complexity, Do Not Say We Have Nothing magnificently brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy, which still resonates for a new generation. It is a gripping evocation of the persuasive power of revolution and its effects on personal and national identity, and an unforgettable meditation on China today.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 480 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 28mm | 333g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 9781783782673
  • 43,083

Review quote

A moving and extraordinary evocation of the 20th-century tragedy of China, and deserves to cement Thien's reputation as an important and compelling writer * Guardian * [This] will cement Thien as one of Canada's most talented novelists, at once a successor to Rohinton Mistry and a wholly singular stylist...A supple epic about that which remains behind after each new beginning... Gorgeous * Globe and Mail * Madeleine Thien is a serious and gifted writer. With compassion and meticulous precision, she explores ordinary lives shaped by extraordinary political events. Like a beautiful and complex piece of music, the narration unfolds in layers, returning again and again to the central themes of family, memory and loss -- Ma Jian, author * Beijing Coma * Intelligent, powerful and moving. This is Madeleine Thien's magnum opus -- Tan Twan Eng, author * The Garden of Evening Mists * The tragedy and absurdity of modern China never felt so alive as in Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Thien writes of an extended family of musical prodigies whose loves and ambitions are thwarted at every turn. The meticulous research that went into this novel about real-life events makes it so utterly believable that your heart aches. Thien's writing is as lyrical as works of Bach and Shostakovich that inspire her musician characters, but her tour de force is the last movement of this symphonic novel in which the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square unfolds at a thrilling, fortissimo pace -- Barbara Demick, author * Nothing to Envy * Imagination, Nabokov says, is a form of memory. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a perfect example of how a writer's imagination keeps alive the memory of a country's and its people's past when the country itself tries to erase the history. With insight and compassion, Madeleine Thien presents a compelling tale of China of 20th century -- Yiyun Li, author * Kinder than Solitude * This is a resplendent, epic masterpiece of a novel that brings to light a dark period of Chinese history through wit, humour and nuanced storytelling. The characters linger long after the last page -- Alice Pung, author * Laurinda * Bold, beautiful and profoundly affecting, Do Not Say We Have Nothing celebrates the indestructibility of the individual, and both declares and illustrates the transcendent power of art. An exceptional novel -- James Scudamore, author * Wreaking * A moving and extraordinary evocation of the tragedy, and deserves to cement Thien's reputation as an important writer... Powerful -- Isabel Hilton * Guardian * [An] ambitious saga... Thien's intricate narrative lays bare the lives of three musical friends living through an era when serious music had to survive driven underground -- Phil Baker * Sunday Times * A profound tale that strips bare 20th century China * Stylist * Thien writes beautifully and precisely about family ties, mothers and daughters, secrets, shame and duty, her characters faltering between their noble aims and harsh reality as we witness a country consumed by cruelty. The very best literature leaves you viewing the world slightly differently and this novel echoes and bubbles in the mind long after you have finished it -- Grace Dent * Daily Express *
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About Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien's novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and won the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2016 and the Governor General's Award 2016. She is also the author of the story collection Simple Recipes (2001) and the novels Certainty (2006) and Dogs at the Perimeter (Granta, 2012), which was shortlisted for Berlin's 2014 International Literature Award and won the Frankfurt Book Fair's 2015 LiBeraturpreis. Her books and stories have been translated into 23 languages. The daughter of Malaysian-Chinese immigrants to Canada, she lives in Montreal.
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Rating details

3.92 out of 5 stars
- 21,117 ratings
5 34% (7,110)
4 37% (7,760)
3 20% (4,276)
2 7% (1,424)
1 3% (547)
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