Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien
My first book from the other side of the great wall and another addition in my Booker (Nominee for 2016) reads. I always thought what made these books so special and this one clears all of my doubts in one shot by the way Author has covered before and after of an important point of history from China – The happenings of Tiananmen Square in the year 1989. The way one single episode changed the lives of millions of chinese fot good and bad – makes up for a heartwarming and a commendable effort. As is the case with almost all of these books that I am learning gradually – even this wasn’t an easy read rather I will call it quite a challenging read – call it my ignorance or zero knowledge of the happenings. All I remember of Tiananmen Square episode is what I saw decades back on TV while in my teens that a huge number of students turned out to the square for some revolution, sat on a hunger strike which was later turned into a massacre by the Army of Peoples Republic. It is written from the point of view of a young girl who witnessed everything live, currently lives (almost) a comfortable life with her mother in Canada as a lot of Chinese took asylum either in USA or in Canada after the massacre. She traces the story back and is on the lookout for her dad’s closest friend’s daughter, who stays with them for quite a while and goes back to live in the US and unfortunately she had to go back to China because of some visa issues and never comes back. The little girl now all grown up is looking for her friend after decades and the journey uncovers so much for her and the readers as what happened then which makes up for a very captivating, eye opening, unbelievably earth shattering read, I could never imagine the gravity (not the right word).
What I will call challenging but not a turn off is the use of Chinese terms, specially the alphabets and figures which of-course made no sense to me. The musical references as both the lead character and his protege were professional musicians in the first place later turned into factory workers because of the Chinese law and order of that time, again I will hold my no knowledge of music a culprit. Also, I wish I had a little more knowledge of Chinese history to make it a better read for me. But what worked big time is the story running in the background to the whole revolution of the Professor and his much loved Protege, it even explores and makes us delve into a different love between them (will not call them Gay) but yes they had a physical relations. Another point that I wasn’t able to make much out was the character names – I mean Chinese names anyways are different then the rest of the world on top of that a lot of the characters are named like “Sparrow the bird of quiet”, “Swirl”, “Big Mother Knife”, “Baby Corn” and a couple of others. It was indeed shocking to read what the Chinese people have or may be still are going through that too in 21st century and how life is on the other side of the wall, I just couldn’t believe it, makes me wonder yet again that we are too lucky to have what we have and that actually made me thinking she still titled the book “Do Not Say We Have Nothing” kudos to her.