Monday, January 28, 2013

The Zenith

Duong Thu Huong

If my review of this novel were limited to a single word, I would have to choose "ambitious." Huong's novel tells the story of the final years of the Vietnam dictatorship under Ho Chi Minh from multiple perspectives. As a Euro-Canadian who was born after the novel's chronological setting, I felt like I was missing out on a lot of the atmosphere that Huong goes to such great lengths to depict in her novel. However, when something is clearly as written from the heart as The Zenith is, one can still appreciate it, in spite of some of Huong’s more subtle nuances going over my head.

For those who are well-read, The Zenith feels like a cross between Joy Kogawa's Obasan and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude: it seamlessly blends beautiful storytelling with a burning hope for social and political change. For those unfamiliar with those works, The Zenith is a tremendously rich novel, sprawling decades and taking readers to the lowest depths of human depravity and back again. It's certainly not a light read at five hundred-plus pages of politically and emotionally fuelled writing, but it's definitely worth the adventure to read this novel.

- Dallas Dunstan

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