“Many lives and many selves might exist, but that doesn’t render each variation false.”

Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 473
Published: May 31, 2016
Rate: 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis
In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming.

As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989.

It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming – and for Marie.

Written with exquisite intimacy, wit and moral complexity, Do Not Say We Have Nothing magnificently brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy, which still resonates for a new generation. It is a gripping evocation of the persuasive power of revolution and its effects on personal and national identity, and an unforgettable meditation on China today.

My Take
What a beautiful, heartbreaking book this is. One thing that I noticed in Do Not Say We Have Nothing is the beautiful prose. Madelein Thien writes with so much care and clarity I couldn’t help but be engrossed. To be honest it did take a while for me to get into the book, but the minute I did, it was such a wonderful read.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing spans 3 generations, a well told story of the civil war and the reign of Mao Zedong. The book is layered with so much and watching it unfold is quite interesting. The author manages to incorporate Maths, Literature and classical music into the story and it’s really fascinating.

“One day I will tell you all the vagaries, cliff-hangers and digressions of the story.”

The character development in this book is one that made me so happy. Watching their growth, and seeing them come alive on the page is amazing. They are so well written, and distinct and I found myself looking forward to reading about them and their lives.

Do Not Say We Have is a historical novel touching on musical composition, classical music, coupled with the war that was going on at the time. Their realities, and life after that. I do recommend it.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?