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Gibb captures the real feel of Hanoi in snapshots of street life, political oppression, restaurants, squalor, art and poetry, both now and in fleshing out the past. In these scenes she inserts people we can believe in – a young tour guide, an American art curator who is Vietnamese born, and old but expert pho (soup) maker, martyrs for freedom of speech, a new generation of rap political protestors. Gibb layers them in ever changing combinations and situations as the story moves along, just like a good bowl of layered pho.
I liked this book. It gives a glimpse of a people whose lives were ruined by a judgemental political party which had no sense of proportion in deciding who was corrupt and bourgeois, crushing creativity and commerce. It is sad but their resilience prevails and life goes on. I think the descriptions are very vivid and the characters are likeable and well-drawn.
What Ms Gibb lacks in the narrative, she makes up for in the descriptive. An easy, interesting read but not worthy of five stars in a literary sense. What kept the pages turning for me - who was a teenager during the tumultuous years of the US involvement in Nam - was a glimpse at the history and sociopolitical evolution in the lives of the North Vietnamese as seen through the eyes of the main characters.
Set in post war Vietnam this book is about Maggie, a Vietnamese who was brought up in America. She goes back to Vietnam to find the story of her father an artist who paid with his life during the revolution. The central character in the book is Old Man Hung who collects a crowd around his Pho pot and whose memories go back a long way. Maggie meets Hung through a young tour guide, Tu and the rest is the story. A well written account of a terrible period in Vietnamese history.
Don’t let the strange title put you off. This captivating novel by Camilla Gibb spans three generations in Vietnam - during and after the Vietnam War. The “Beauty of Humanity Movement” is a group of artists and intellectuals who question Communist rule. The story follows this artists' collective and their friends and families but the central element of the book isn't a character, but rather, pho, a delicious soup served for breakfast. This is one flavourful novel you won’t soon forget!
I loved this book. The author really captured the feeling of present-day Vietnam and the struggles of the country and her people and presenting history in a way that makes it come alive with characters who are three-dimensional and real and immensely appealing. And using pho, the Hanoi beef soup which is more than just a food, more like the soul of a country, as a touchstone, was brilliant. A tragic history, but with hope for the future as well. I am very sad to discover that Camilla Gibb's other novels are not available to borrow except as e-books or to read in the reading room.
Susan March 14, 2014
Oh, what a beautiful, wonderful book. At first I thought I would resist it, since I wasn't sure how to pronounce the names and thought that would trip me up all the way through - but very quickly, the story took me over. Moving, touching, affirming. All you need to know, really, is that it's about a man who makes soup in Hanoi, Vietnam; he is the locus and the catalyst for all that happens. There is a handful of other important characters, all connected to him. The layering and texture of this novel is marvellous. AshRichards' comment about the ending surprises me very much - I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Great beginning, satisfying middle and rushed, superficial ending.
It is the talent of the author that she created such enveloping characters, but it is also the fault for not thoroughly fleshing out an ending that the characters deserved.
A very profound story: Mrs. Gibb captured the horrors of the communist / revolutionary society very well, and managed to paint a vivid and sad picture of it. I have rarely read a book so well-written about communism, and this book helped me understand some points I always missed about Vietnam (although I grew up in a communist Easter-European country). Going to check her other works, as well some history books :)
a quick read, very evocative of vietnam
under the eaves of heaven is a good companion book
easier to read than sweetness in the belly
I enjoyed this so much more that Sweetness in the Belly. Gibb has honed her craft. This is a sad story that wends its way like a slow oriental river on a muggy day in Asia. Look closely at the sadness and suffering of a society trying to join the 21st century but constantly having its nose rubbed in its histroy by the VN vets coming back to visit the VN then knew in their youth. There is just no resolution either with America for what it did, nor for the leaders of communist party which brought such suffering on a proud and resourceful people. It's all there in the soup. I had male friends who fought in VN and this helped me to understand what was going on thre in a way that history books have not been about to explain.
A wonderful read on how one can create love and beauty. Enjoyed reading about the history and culture of Vietnam.
Loved the insight into Vietnam's history and culture. Loved the perspective into the human condition. Man's inhumanity to Man, but love, creativity, and constancy supporting people through oppression.
I found this novel sort of boring - it took me a while to get through, as I wasn't dying to pick it up and read. at times, the author's voice sounded childish and simplistic, and some parts of the novel were rather corny (although no where near as cheesy as many books enjoying alot of popularity right now, so I get the feeling the corny factor of the BOHM won't bother most readers). Overall, it was a "meh".
This is a quaint and simple story about a woman raised in American but returns to Vietnam to find out more about her father. The loving descriptions of pho and food are wonderful.
Camilla Gibb is one of my favourite writers. I was bound to be disappointed with any new novel of hers, after Sweetness in the Belly.
I failed to connect as well with the characters in this story, but overall found it to be an enjoyable read.