Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

The historical scenes in this book are outstanding.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 432 pages.
Read from January 1, 2017 to February 8, 2017.

This should have been published yesterday, my apologies. This novel showed up on my radar as it has recently won the Giller Prize and was also nominated for the Booker Prize. Once I read the premise, I was excited to see what this historical-fiction would hold.

Marie (Li-Ling) is a first generation Canadian who is unfolding the story of two different generations of her family.  Her family, originally from China, lived through the Mao Cultural Revolutions and the following generation was there for the Tiananmen Square protests. When her estranged older cousin Ai-Ming comes to live with after escaping the aftermath of the protests in China, Marie starts to learn more about her father, Kai, and her Uncle Sparrow who is Ai-Ming’s father, through a series of notebooks. Sparrow and Kai were both accomplished musicians, with Sparrow being genius composer.  The two of them shared an immensely close bond. Kai moved to Canada and started a family while Sparrow remained in China and gave up composing. In secret, Kai went to visit his friend and never returned after taking his own life. The notebook also details countless other family members and their tragic stories in China during these tumultuous times in history.

If the description of this novel seems convoluted, it’s because the plot line is too. The storyline jumps around a lot and it is hard to keep track of the numerous family members in the story.  There are also extensive conversations about music and composers, which I imagine would be great if you were familiar with them, but as I am not, I found parts of this novel to be extremely dry.  I felt very frustrated with this novel. On one part, the historical aspects and scenes of this story are outstanding. Thein creates some phenomenal imagery and at times I felt as I deeply immersed in the story. There are also some very memorable characters and relationships in the book but you had to wade through a family tree to get to ones that mattered. I do not feel that this story was told as well as it could have been. The notebook concept was not delivered very well and at times I felt confused and bored by what I was reading, which is a reflection of how long this novel too me. The story and concept of this novel are award-winning however, the writing is not.

I can say that there were times I considered putting this book down, however there are some golden scenes in this book that made up for it, the ending especially. This book is still worth reading and I would recommend it to history buffs or historical fiction fans.

And the winner is…

I guess you could say, that in my predictions, I sort of got it right…

Huzzuh! After a very strenuous debate with a near questionable outcome, the winner of the Canada Reads is…

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Defended by Humble the Poet, the book, to my great surprise won. I loved this book and it was my favourite of the five but I did not think it would win. Humble the Poet did a great job in defending this novel and I am thrilled that it got the praise and appreciation it deserved.

I think the real debate, at the end of the day, is what does Canada need? And Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Those needs are going to be extremely diverse.” – Humble the Poet, Canada Reads 2017 debates

I am thankful that Company Town did not win. I did like the book, I just didn’t think it contended as well as the others. The book is a science-fiction and they often get a bad rap so I am glad that it did well in that sense but just in terms of how it met the question this year it did not contend as well as the others.

I guess you could say, that in my predictions, I sort of got it right. While I didn’t think that this book would win, I did rank it as my favourite so it was a near close!

Well, that’s a wrap for this year! Perhaps now is a good time to try and catch up on some of the best reads from some of the years I missed…

My Selection – Canada Reads 2017

What is the one book Canadians need now? I give my two-cents in this years Canada Reads 2017 debate.

Hey kids! The Canada Reads 2017 debate starts today! The debates will air on CBC Radio One at 11:05 a.m. ET, CT, MT, PT. They will air at 1:30 p.m. in Atlantic Canada and 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. CBC Television will broadcast the shows at 4 p.m. local time.

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Me, getting excited for the debates.

I am happy to report that I have read and reviewed all the contending books this year and I am going to break down my predictions for the winner.Picking a winner this year was extremely difficult as the books that I enjoyed the most are not necessarily the ones that will hold the best during the debates. The selection this year, I would say, has been the most enjoyable shortlist for me since I started following Canada Reads back in 2014. Additionally,  I am going to do two rankings. One, for the book that best met the question, and two, for the books that I enjoyed the most.

Based on the books that have best met this years question: What is the one book Canadians need now?  Here is how I think it may pan out:

28364532The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change. In terms of the cause, this books takes the cake for the question this year.This type of issue needs to be laid out for everyone to see. Just because you may not be suffering the effects of climate change at this time, it doesn’t mean that others are not and we need to do our part to get a handle on the climate change situation. However in terms of the readability of the readability of this book, I would rank it very differently. See below.

33540374This book fulfills in answering this question many times over with the multiple topics it breaches. This book outlines rape culture, which is massively important with our neighbours below us stirring the pot politically on feminist topics, as well as discussing and bringing light to the importance of how missing and murdered Native American women are being viewed and treated negatively and are not given the serious attention that their cause deserves. Additionally, the books ends with hope.

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This book analyzes our humanity, both the good and the bad, and focuses on the positives of: language, poetry/art, and companionship in relation to happiness and purpose. With the current political atmosphere, this book helps reminds of our need to connect and communicate, to ultimately respect the differences of others, and just how essential this is to our happiness as a species. As with the dogs in this book, hate only leads to more hate, hurt and tragic endings.

 

32436974This novel is an example of a successful dystopia. It’s not too far-fetched to be true science fiction and it holds enough truth in it to reflect the present. The author depicts a very real conflict between baby boomers and millennials with the new and old generations of those with eternal life as well as the disparity of wealth between have and have-not countries and the lack of understanding and general humanity that wealthier countries have on the issue. Despite the political differences and atmosphere currently this book serves to remind all Canadians that regardless of where you came from or what you believe, we cannot forget that we are all the same.

27280319Hwa is a fantastic character. I only wish that there were more like her: strong, smart, brave (all in the masculine sense too) and she can kick some serious ass.The topic of a company town, while important, especially in relation to how massive the oil companies and rigs are in Canada, I don’t feel it has the same potency as the other books.

However, if I could truly rate these books just on enjoyment, content and readability, I would have them as such:

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Beautifully written with a compelling and enticing story, this book is worth all the awards and praise it is receiving.

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

I would say this book is in a tie for the first spot on this list. I found the concept fascinating, yet almost realistic and appreciated the journey that the protagonist went through. Fabulous writing too.

The Break by Katherena Vermette

When a book comes with a trigger warning, you know you are in for something deep. This book discusses multiple women’s issues and it heart-breaking and heart warming. The characters really stuck with me.

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

While the main character absolutely kicked ass, the plot of the story was not delivered as efficiently as it could have been. Additionally, the meager romance was probably the most feels I have ever in reading something romantic. That is really hard to do to for me!

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

While the content is undeniably valuable I found this read uninviting and not as inspiring as it could have been. The books was more of a warning than a memoir and spent a lot o time on the nuances of committee meetings rather than the author’s more personal journey. However, it sounds like author is a pretty private person so I imagine that this is about as extensive as she gets in terms of getting up close and personal.

Let’s see how the debates go and see if I was able to pick the winner. Who do you think should win this year?