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Dogs at the Perimeter Hardcover – May 3 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1st Edition edition (May 3 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771084080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771084089
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #186,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 24 2011
Format: Hardcover
"We had to sign our names to these biographies, and we did this over and over, naming family and friends, illuminating the past. My little brother and I were only eight and ten years old but, even then, we understood that the story of one's life could not be trusted, that it could destroy you and all the people you loved." Evicted from their family home in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, by the Khmer Rouge, Mei and her family are forced to follow the long and arduous trek through a devastated country, only to see the parents being taken away and the children ending up in a one of the many work camps. "Families are a disease of the past" and "attachment to the world is a crime", was the official position of the Khmer Rouge. Mei's voice forms the compelling centre of Madeleine Thien's extraordinary and deeply moving novel of loss and survival, of memory and identity, of past and present intermingling, and of the underlying deep-seated need to heal from the wounds inflicted on body and soul. But how?

Rarely have I read a novel that pulled me so quickly so deeply into the emotional life and traumas of the central characters and the external circumstances that led to these upheavals. Madeleine Thien takes us deep into the brutal and devastating realities of the Khmer Rouge Regime that lasted officially from 1975 to 1978, but whose violent actions were felt inside the country for a much longer time. It seem inconceivable to us today, what happened to the people of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime, that left between one and two million people dead and many others displaced without trace.
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By Rhea on Sept. 10 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I received the book on time and in perfect condition (looks exactly like the picture shown). Also a great read.
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Format: Paperback
I have just finished reading Dogs at the Perimeter on the shores of Lake Beira in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In the magical land of Ondaatje, the sultry air caresses my thoughts and body as I pen these short reflections on Thien’s powerful work of friendship, closing a circle of longing, suffering and uncertainty.

Madeleine Thien’s narrative is a spell-binding odyssey into a dark and painful past. Janie, now a medical researcher in Montreal with a caring husband and a loving son, must relive the tragedy of her childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Her return to this world of horror and absurdity is triggered by the sudden disappearance of her friend and colleague, Hiroji Matsui. Hiroji is a brilliant doctor, whose brother, Junichiro, vanished in Cambodia thirty years earlier while working for the Red Cross. Janie’s bond to Hiroji quietly unfolds in the opening chapters. While he is not her lover, at least not in the traditional sense, she is drawn to him through their common loss of loved ones in a distant land, and he becomes her soul mate. His unexplained absence crushes her existence and distances her from her husband and child. Convinced that Hiroji has returned to Cambodia in a renewed attempt to find Junichiro, Janie embarks on a physical and metaphysical voyage to a land that she has long locked out of her thoughts.

On the cover of my edition of Madeleine Thien’s entrancing novel, fellow Canadian author, Johanna Skibsrud, has graced Thien with the recommendation “If you read one Canadian book this year, let it be this one.” A fair comment but erroneous in adding “Canadian,” for Thien’s work transcends geographic boundaries and national identity. Nor is it really a “book,” but rather a cloud of thoughts, an experience as heavy and penetrating as the languid air of Lake Beira.
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By Amelia1991 on Jan. 29 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved Thein's descriptive realism in this text. She tells the story of a war torn country through the eyes of a young girl trying to survive while the same girl, a woman now, is searching for a missing friend in Montreal. I couldn't put it down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
How many lives can we live? May 24 2011
By Friederike Knabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"We had to sign our names to these biographies, and we did this over and over, naming family and friends, illuminating the past. My little brother and I were only eight and ten years old but, even then, we understood that the story of one's life could not be trusted, that it could destroy you and all the people you loved." Evicted from their family home in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, by the Khmer Rouge, Mei and her family are forced to follow the long and arduous trek through a devastated country, only to see the parents being taken away and the children ending up in a one of the many work camps. "Families are a disease of the past" and "attachment to the world is a crime", was the official position of the Khmer Rouge. Mei's voice forms the compelling centre of Madeleine Thien's extraordinary and deeply moving novel of loss and survival, of memory and identity, of past and present intermingling, and of the underlying deep-seated need to heal from the wounds inflicted on body and soul. But how?

Rarely have I read a novel that pulled me so quickly so deeply into the emotional life and traumas of the central characters and the external circumstances that led to these upheavals. Madeleine Thien takes us deep into the brutal and devastating realities of the Khmer Rouge Regime that lasted officially from 1975 to 1978, but whose violent actions were felt inside the country for a much longer time. It seem inconceivable to us today, what happened to the people of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime, that left between one and two million people dead and many others displaced without trace.

Written with admirable delicacy and tenderness, deep compassion and understanding, Thien recounts the harrowing and life-threatening circumstances of the past as seen primarily through the eyes of ten-year old Mei. These events not only kept haunting the young girl but they inflicted such deep emotional wounds that the after-effects have been reaching, like an octopus's tentacles, into the present and continue to deeply trouble the innermost soul of forty-year old survivor, Janie. "It's in the night, I know, that the ones we love disappear[...] In my dreams I saw every one and everything[...] The Khmer Rouge had taught us how to survive, walking alone, carrying nothing in our hands. Belongings were slid away, then family and loved ones, then finally our loyalties and ourselves. Worthless or precious, indifferent or loved, all of our treasures had been treated the same."

"Mei" was not her real name, but a name given to her by one of the guards controlling the children's camp, a youth hardly older, but with AK 47s slung over his shoulder as a sign of power. "Names", Mei learned, "were empty syllables, signifying nothing, lost as easily as a suit of clothes, a brother or a sister, an entire world. " For her it felt normal, when, some time after finally escaping and arriving in Canada, she requested a Canadian name: Mei became Janie. If only suffering and trauma could be stripped away as easily as a name! Janie, now thirty years later and working as a neurological researcher in Montreal, cannot free herself from the past: "I have too many selves and they no longer fit together." While memories are vivid in her dreams, she sees bare walls when she wakes up. She is still not able to find a voice to share any of her harrowing experiences, not even with those closest to her. One day, however, her search into the disappearance of her fatherly friend and mentor, Hiroji, "cracks open" something hidden deep inside her... and her life shatters into more shards than she is able to catch as they fall. Convinced that Hiroji left for Cambodia in search of his brother Junicho (James), who had disappeared in Phnom Penh in 1975, she also has to embarks on a journey...

Madeleine Thien's novel opens with Janie's investigation into Hiroji's disappearance. Her search for clues as to his whereabouts provides the trigger to bring her own past vividly back into focus and to relive Mei's ordeals and her struggle for survival. It is an intimate account, a journey that, at times, is harrowing, always emotionally charged, fast moving and totally absorbing. With a confident hand, a tender gentle touch and a deeply compassionate mind, Thien has brought a story to life in which the past and the present blend together in the minds of her characters, where the world of the past demands attention in the world of the present, where wounds can only heal when the causes for the paperthin scars are confronted again and written or talked about with those who love and can give of themselves.

Madeleine Thien's new novel is a marvel in many ways. She writes with such gentleness and thoughtfulness as well as deep understanding of a particular historical time that as readers we feel drawn completely into the mind of "Mei", the ten-year at the centre of the harrowing events and her forty-year old adult self, Janie, whose life is in danger of total disintegration if she cannot heal from the past experiences. Depending on her needs, Thien's language can be sparse or rich with poetic imagery and unusual rhythms; often her descriptions are impressionistic, evoking situations rather than spelling out the gruesome details, leaving it to the reader to complete the picture or thought in their own minds. Some images remind me of Chinese painting where a few brushstrokes can tell a complete story. Thien's many personal encounters with survivors, both in Cambodia and elsewhere, has given her rare insights into the long-term effects of deep trauma even decades later. *) She has transposed these authentic voices into an extraordinary, powerful and important novel. [Friederike Knabe]

*) see first comment.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Lost June 6 2011
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Start with the extraordinary qualities of this novel: it is searingly authentic and wonderfully well written. So clear is the description of the horror following the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975, that I assumed some at least must have been the personal experience of the author, but I now find that prizewinning Canadian novelist was born in British Columbia! The narrator, now called Janie but only one of several names she has had in her life, describes how she, her mother, and slightly older brother were separated from their father (a translator, and thus considered an enemy as an intellectual), and sent on forced marches far from their home in Phnom Penh, ending eventually in a work camp in the country. Her descriptions of tortures and killings avoid the climactic moments, but they are more effective because of it. The deepest insults are the starvation, the despair, the theft of identity so extreme that survival is only possible by denying not only the moral foundations of one's upbringing, but even its basic biographical facts: place of birth, parentage, name. "Names were empty syllables, signifying nothing, lost as easily as a suit of clothes, a brother or a sister, an entire world."

At medical school in Montréal, the narrator attends a lecture by another exile, Hiroji Matsui, a Japanese doctor who has served in Cambodia with the Red Cross. She later goes to work with him in the Brain Research Centre and the two develop a warm father-daughter relationship. A month before the novel opens, Hiroji disappears, leaving no traces. Janie suspects that he has gone back to Cambodia to look for his brother, also a doctor, who disappeared decades earlier. Unable to live with the memories that this stirs up in her own mind, Janie finds it impossible to continue a normal life -- even to live with her well-loved husband and son -- until she too has gone back in search of her lost self.

In that first lecture, Hiroji talked about a Russian student, shot in the head but surviving, who spent the next twenty years painfully trying to relearn language so that in writing, even as little as a sentence a day, he might make a wholeness of his shattered life. Thien writes a little like that also. At its best, it gives the book a poignant poetry that gets to the essence of experience without tripping over details. But it also makes the novel confusing and difficult to read. It is by no means always clear what is happening; Thien's tendency to jump between past and present, to mingle facts and dreams, even to include imaginary people in a conversation, gives the reader no alternative but to surrender to her fractured logic. More seriously, the dislocation of all these lives, the fungibility of identity, makes it very difficult to feel for them as individuals. Janie enters the reader's heart in the early sections, but she virtually disappears halfway through the novel. The characters who then take focus, mainly Hiroji and his brother, also suffer deeply, but they all have much the same voice; nobody -- not even Janie herself -- truly emerges as a distinct and rounded personality. The theft of individuality is a kind of genocide; this book is a unique attempt to reclaim what was lost. If it does not quite succeed as a novel, that is testament to the original horror, but as a personal document it is incomparable.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Transcendent prose, hard to put down! Nov. 4 2013
By J. Chan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Last week, I read this book from cover to cover within a day. It is an amazing book and such a touching story. The historic details are meticulously researched. The characters lift off the page like spirits, holograms. Best of all, Thien's prose is transcendent; nothing is overwritten. The haunting nature of such a tragedy as genocide is carried through her careful, succinct writing that is not overly sentimental. The narrative is rooted in the history of the Cambodian genocide, but unfurls to touch upon the universal: the way we remake ourselves constantly, and the shades of our old selves that live within, sometimes dormant, sometimes still achingly alive.

This is not a typical novel in structure; each chapter is based around one of the characters. The overall impression, therefore, is not purely a linear narrative, but a set of impressions on how these characters have been affected by their shared history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Best Yet Oct. 7 2012
By Booker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best book yet from Canada's current generation of great women wrtiers. Madeleine Thien largely unrecognized in the United States is writing the best stories on the continent. This incredible novel about loss of indentity and historical confusion is wriiten beautifully. In the hands of a less talented writer this material would be trite. With Madelein it is superb.
Good read but hard to get into! July 13 2014
By Stoffel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really struggled to get into this book. I was confused by the characters, who was who, and the timing of events, but as I got further into the narrative, and started to understand the development and historical events, I decided I couldn't let it go. The story is about the affect of the Pol Pot regime had on Cambodian society and is difficult to absorb how cruel humans can be to each other.
I am glad I read it, but it could have been less confusing!

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