The idea of this blog is to facilitate the love of reading by collecting news about new books, or sometimes good old books. It is also dedicated to stamping out the scourge of e-books, Kindles, Kobo's, i-Pads, and all other such abominations.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

CERTAINITY by Madeline Thien

When Madeleine Thein's short story collection, SIMPLE RECIPES, appeared a few years ago, I became a fan. CERTAINTY, her first novel is terrific. It takes place over a period of 50 years in Canada, Asia and Europe. Thein handles the transitions seamlessly.

Gail Lim, daughter of Chinese immigrants is looking for the untold stories in her family. As a radio documentary producer, she is obsessed with finding a way to decode a diary written during World War II by a POW in a Japanese camp in Asia.
A friend in Amsterdam is working on it with her.

Gail's father, Matthew, was a child in North Borneo during the Japanese occupation. To protect his family, Matthew's father collaborated with the Japanese. When the war was over, Matthew, unable to deal with the shame of his father's actions, left his village, first for Australia where he attended university and subsequently, Vancouver accompanied by his wife, the Hong Kong born, Clara. He is haunted by scenes from the war and by the relationship he had with his beloved childhood friend, Ani.

Gail travels from Vancouver to Holland to read the diary that has been decoded and then to find Spike Vermeullen, a photographer from Jakarta, who married Ani.
The story is told in turn by Matthew, Clara, Ansel, Gail's physician husband, Ani and Gail. Scenes set in the jungles of North Borneo, Jakarta during the riots, and Strathcona in Vancouver are filled with wonderful detail. Bit by bit we discover the hidden stories that haunt each of the characters.

With war much on our minds these days, this novel brings alive the terrible costs to
it victims, especially the children. I think you will enjoy it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great site, Thora. Good links and good thoughts.
Thanks for this review of Certainty. You've convinced me. It's my next read.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, said, Thora. I'm going right out to get my copy of Certainty.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Dawn Morrow said...

Thora, this is the next best thing to sitting down with you and making a list of what I want to read next. Like you, I really enjoyed Certainty. Have you read The Birth House yet? Really enjoyed it too. I'm going to tackle Digging to America next

1:51 PM  
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