3.91 (78 ratings by Goodreads)
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The setting is Tonkin (northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century. A boy, Tai, witnesses the beheading of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his head and then to find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. On this quest, Tai's entire world will shift. FLESH takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort. In that emotionally harrowing world, Tai must learn to deal with new responsibilities in his life while at the same time acknowledge his bond, and his resemblance, to a man he barely knew-his father. Through this story of revenge is woven a another story, one of love, but love purchased with the blood of murders Tai commits. A coming-of-age story, but also a love story, the sensuality of the author's writing style belies the sometimes brutal world he depicts.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 218 x 246 x 34mm | 544.31g
  • Black Heron Press
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • English
  • 0930773888
  • 9780930773885

Review quote

"Vietnam-born Ha's beautifully described yet murkily executed first novel, set in his native country at the turn of the 20th century, opens with an infamous yet respected bandit being beheaded in front of his wife and their two young sons. This beginning casts a pall over the tale as Tai, the eldest son, embarks on a far-reaching journey to retrieve his father's skull, find a suitable burial site, and seek revenge on the man who betrayed his father's trust. Through a series of twists and turns--some more developed than others--Tai trades two years' service to a wealthy entrepreneur for land on which to bury the father's remains. During that time, Tai loses his heart to Xiaoli, an indentured servant working in an opium den, and will do anything--including holding off on vengeance and killing a French soldier--to protect her. In this dark, violent, and poetic saga, with disjointed cinematic vignettes that make it often read like a screenplay, characters are not who they seem. While this makes for a thrilling finale, what lingers more than the somewhat weak plot is Ha's descriptive prose." (May)--PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
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Rating details

78 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 26% (20)
4 42% (33)
3 29% (23)
2 3% (2)
1 0% (0)

Our customer reviews

I suppose I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. Yes, I can agree without a doubt that this is a book that is full of history that I honestly had never heard. I know very little about Vietnam, and this told me much about nineteenth century Annam (which became Vietnam). I was horrified to discover how the people were treated by the Chinese, and the barbarism nearly sickened me. The realism of the book certainly made an impression on me. I was somewhat turned off by the unnecessary profanity. Thankfully the bedroom scenes were not described. And sex did not seem to rule the characters in the book--which was nice. The book was so dark that I often struggled to read it. It is not an easy read. It is one of those books where you must engage your brain thoroughly as you read. I found I could not read the book at night because it was too depressing and too realistic at time. The strength of this book (in addition to the history) is the author's descriptions. He is a master at detailed descriptions to the point that you can see it happening the way the author intended you to. The brutality in the book was descriptive but not to the point that I had to "look away." Granted, I would not have wanted to see a film of those scenes, but I felt that all the scenes were tastefully written. While this is not a book that I would pick up for a light read, if you are in the mood for some historical fiction with intense descriptions, this is the book for you! I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.show more
by Ruth Hill
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