Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine ThienThien has written some fine books (Dogs At The Perimeter, Certainty), but this new book is her best yet – an epic story of China. The evocative writing describes the agony of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s leading up to the horror of the Tiananmen Square massacre. There are three central characters that are linked by their passion for music.

The coda at the end of the book describes the first time a lost composition for violin and piano is played: “At first, the violin played alone, a series of notes that slowly widened. When the piano entered, I saw a man turning in measured elegant circles, I saw him looking for the centre that eluded him, this beautiful centre that promised an end to sorrow, the lightness of freedom. The piano stepped forward and the violin lifted, a man crossing a room and a girl weeping as she climbed a flight of steps; they played as if one sphere could merge into the other, as if they could arrive in time and be redeemed in a single overlapping moment. And even when the notes they played were the very same, the piano and violin were irrevocably apart, drawn by different lives and different times. Yet in their separateness, and in the quiet, they contained one another”.

This book has great story telling with some transcendent writing – highly recommended.

15 Dogs by Andre Alexis

15 Dogs by Andre AlexisAn inventive and imaginative book that is deserving of recent accolades (Governor General’s Award, Giller). Apollo and Hermes make a wager on the consequences of granting human consciousness to 15 dogs. In most cases, there is not much consequence in short lives terminated by violence. But in a few instances, there are very interesting passages about love versus loyalty, the impact of language, and the role of dominance.

Amy note: As seen at the Vancouver Writers Festival, 2015