What a terrific book review! RavensYard, the publishing company I've been working with for the last few years, has just released its newest title and an early review of the book in a Vietnamese-American newspaper is huge. Vietnamese literary critic Nguyen-Khoa Thai-Anh wrote in a review published in Nguoi Viet 2 that author Uyen Nicole Duong has weaved a "tale of Vietnam's soul through a woman's eyes" in the new novel Daughters of the River Huong.
Nguyen-Khoa said that Ms. Duong's novel is "among the ranks of great contemporary epic novels." Daughters of the River Huong - a Vietnamese royal concubine and her descendants (ISBN 1-928928-16-1) is written by Uyen Nicole Duong, who came to the US at age 16 after the fall of Saigon. Nguyen-Khoa's interview with Duong also appeared in the Nguoi Viet 2 article, which was published in the periodical's Reading Room section. (Profile). Here is an extended excerpt from Nguyen-Khoa's review:
If it weren’t for the fictionalized aspect of this true-to-life love story, it could well be an interestingly humanist, thoroughly researched female study that delves into a century of tumultuous history in Viet Nam: from French colonial time to the revolutionary struggle for independence to today’s socialist cum capitalist society. Hers is a refreshing voice adding to our understanding of our homeland’s conflict.
While good writers transcend their geographical origins with the universality of the human condition, their literary style depends in large measure on the skillful hand of translators. Duong’s original English work faces no such barrier; her poetic prose stands on its own. Yet, few of the current Vietnamese American writers have lived through the period that they have written about, nor have the breadth of their novels reached the historical scope or touched the height of human emotion as this work.
What separates it from her earlier contemporaries, such as Bao Ninh’s “The Sorrow of War” and Duong Thu Huong’s “Paradise of the Blind,” is her novel’s mass appeal. What we have here is the making of a movie that spans four generations and three continents, from present-day Manhattan to ancient Huế to romantic Paris, to Texas, and back to Sài Gòn.
The book, from RavensYard Publishing, progresses from the French empire in Viet Nam to the dying days of colonialism, when descendants of royal concubine Huyen Phi began to take roots in the mystical Violet City of Hue, to the American involvement and its untimely debacle. The novel’s early plot reminds us of “The Year of Living Dangerously” and “The Killing Fields,” in which brave and endearing foreign reporters stay back to witness the fall of the city, as it changes hands, as well as to see the plight of the people. In this case, Christopher Sanders, an American journalist with a major news network from New York, is the hero who saved the beautiful and virginal Vietnamese Lolita from an uncertain fate and brought her to his country... The tale of survival is told from several women’s point of views, all inexorably connected to the uncrowned empress Huyen Phi and her extinct kingdom of Champa.
To read more about Daughters of the River Huong, here are links to the title and author from the publisher, from the author's webpage, and at amazon.com. Here is are links to the recent announcement about the title in The Writer's Post and a link to RavensYard's interview with the Ms. Duong.