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Ru


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic meditation on the ever-changing human condition
Kim Thuy is a writer based in Montreal. Ru, her first novel, won the Governor General's Literary Award in its original French.

Ru is an autobiographical novel that recounts the author's flight as a refugee from Vietnam to Quebec as a young girl, and the culture shocks she experiences as she adjusts to her new homeland.

It is somewhat misleading to...
Published on Sept. 12 2012 by sean s.

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is more like a book of poetry.
The book is beautifully written, but for me it merely scratched the surface of the story. I wanted to hear more details. Each chapter was just a hint and left me wanting to read more about the Vietnam Nam war and the personal stories of those who managed to survive.
Published 20 months ago by Ev


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic meditation on the ever-changing human condition, Sept. 12 2012
By 
sean s. (montreal) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
Kim Thuy is a writer based in Montreal. Ru, her first novel, won the Governor General's Literary Award in its original French.

Ru is an autobiographical novel that recounts the author's flight as a refugee from Vietnam to Quebec as a young girl, and the culture shocks she experiences as she adjusts to her new homeland.

It is somewhat misleading to label this book a novel, because it is really halfway between a novel - a sustained linear narrative - and poetry - a collection of insightful, finely-crafted and evocative images.

This beautiful book - the hardcover edition is as attractive physically as is the writing - opens with the explanation that "In French, ru means a small stream and, figuratively, a flow, a discharge - of tears, of blood, of money. In Vietnamese, ru means a lullaby, to lull."

And this double-meaning is in fact very appropriate for this book which flows between cultures, between times, between emotions.

The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus observed that "you cannot step in the same river twice" - in other words, there is no being, only becoming - a sentiment conveyed perfectly in this volume.

Thuy recounts the flow from a family life of privilege in Saigon to misery as refugees, the harbinger of impending change sensed by her mother:

"My mother waged her first battles later, without sorrow. She went to work for the first time at the age of thirty-four, first as a cleaning lady, then at jobs in plants, factories, restaurants. Before, in the life that she had lost, she was the eldest daughter of her prefect father. All she did was settle arguments between the French-food chef and the Vietnamese-food chef in the family courtyard (...)

However, far from us blood still flowed and bombs still fell, so she taught my brothers and me to get down on our knees like the servants. Every day, she made me wash four tiles on the floor and clean twenty sprouted beans by removing their roots one by one. She was preparing us for the collapse. She was right to do so, because very soon we no longer had a floor beneath our feet."

Ru is a beautiful, poetic meditation on the ever-changing human condition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WINNER OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD!, June 7 2013
By 
Janet Babins "Jan B" (Montreal, Quebec, CANADA) - See all my reviews
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
Kim Thuy's Ru won The Governor General's Award for Fiction and was Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Ru was exquisitely translated by the award-winning Sheila Fischman.

In Vietnamese Ru means lullaby. In French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow of tears, blood and money. This book is an autobiographical novel.

The young girl is the narrator of this story. Her name is Nguyen An Tinh with a dot under the i. The name means "peaceful Interior" in Vietnamese. Her mother has the same name but without the dot and her name means "peaceful environment". The History of Vietnam flung the accents of their names into the water, when it took her and her family across the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago. The young girl was born during the Tet Offensive in 1968, as the child of an upper class family in Saigon. When she was ten years old, she and her family emigrated out of Vietnam via Malaysian refugee camps, then boarding a boat to Canada. They arrived at Mirabel Airport in Quebec. She spoke very little. She is mute. On the boat, she and her family learned how to travel very light. One gentleman had no luggage, not even a small bag with warm clothes. He had on everything he owned. He had diamonds embedded in his molars, gold on his teeth and American dollars stuffed in his anus. Women had American dollars stuffed in their sanitary napkins. She had an acrylic bracelet, pink like the gums of the dental plate it had been made from, filled with diamonds. Her parents had also put diamonds in the collars of her brothers' shirts.

It is in Quebec, at the Sainte-Famille elementary school that a teacher named Jeanne embraced her nine Vietnamese students. The young girl called the teacher "our good fairy". Jeanne wore a T-shirt and pink tights and a flower in her hair. She liberated the young girl's voice without using words. Jeanne spoke to them with music, with her fingers and her shoulders. She showed them how to occupy the space around them by freeing their arms, by raising their chins and by breathing deeply. Her neck stretched out to form a continuous line with her shoulder, her arm and all the way to her fingertips. Her legs made great circular movements as if to sweep the walls and to stir the air. It was thanks to Jeanne that the young girl learned how to free her voice from the folds of her body so it could reach her lips.

As an adult, the waters again become rough. Now she is married and has two sons, Pascal and Henri. The younger boy is autistic.

What is characteristic of this book are the memories at different stages of her life. They are presented in non-chronological order. The book moves seamlessly from past to present. She now thinks back to her upper middle class childhood in Saigon and her life there, to the sufferings under the Communists, to her life in the refugee camps in Malaysia and how she was welcomed to Canada. She and her family had to adapt to a new culture while holding on to their tradition. Later in life, she returns to Vietnam as an Americanized Vietnamese woman.

After reading this book, I can see why Kim Thuy's Ru has won The Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. This book is a GEM.

Although it is a sad topic, the author managed not to dwell on the sadness. Kim Thuy writes with delicacy and openness about a childhood marked with brutality and finally, the pleasures of ordinary peace - from violence to survival.

I loved this book. I also loved the poetic and delicate writing. I highly recommend this novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars R, April 13 2013
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Kindle Edition)
The book was coherent and telling the story of the protagonist in a poetic style and at the same time letting me have an insight into the life of a family coming to Canada from Vietnam.

There is nothing in the book I disliked and I especially liked her style of writing, which flowed and was poetic.

I would recommend it to readers of any age, who enjoy lyrical writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "We must never regret what we left behind...", Sept. 12 2014
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
Kim Thuy's slim volume, RU, is as much a novel as a fictionalized memoir and a reflection on the heroine's childhood in Vietnam, her escape as a ten-year-old with the boat people... and, via refugee camps in Malaysia, eventually, finding something like a home in Quebec... Like her heroine, she was born in Saigon during the Tet Offensive when circumstances for her family changed forever - from wealthy and respected Saigon family to people on the run without anything. She returned many years later to visit Vietnam where local people didn't recognize her anymore as Vietnamese: she "no longer had their frailty, their uncertainty, their fears."

Towards the end of the book, looking back on her earlier life, the narrator muses "...after only thirty years I already recognize our old selves only through fragments, through scars, through glimmers of light." It is these fragments, the scars and the glimmers of light that Kim Thuy has made the central theme of her book. Unusual in structure and beautifully, often lyrically written, the author's loosely connected vignettes paint an impressionistic, yet intimate portrait of the heroine, her family, her country and what it means to feel connected and uprooted at the same time. Evocative in her depiction of people and places, recalling memories and bringing out associations across time and space, the heroine recounts events and circumstances, essential or negligible, sometimes stories within stories. Like the workings of memory in our brains, nothing is told chronologically; much is only hinted at and, on superficial reading, not developed in depth. Connections between vignettes often hinge on one thought, one colour, one expression... Yet, taken together and letting the short fragments hold our attention for more than a moment or two, the reader is taken on a deeply moving voyage not only into the past of the heroine and her family, but also into the inner struggles of an individual displaced and disconnected from her roots, into her anxieties and fears to accept new ties that can bind... She travels with nothing much but her books, not wanting to weigh herself down with possessions, having learned that "we must never regret what we've left behind." Following another Vietnamese proverb - "Life is a struggle in which sorrow leads to defeat" - she balances sad memories with cheerful ones, accounts of brutality and despair with beauty and hope.

For RU Kim Thuy received, among other awards, the Canadian Governor General's Award for French language fiction and was shortlisted for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize for the English version, exquisitely translated by award winning translator Sheila Fischman. [Friederike Knabe]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, April 26 2013
Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
I absolutely loved this book. I wish that it had been longer, though. I'm sure there were a lot more stories that she could have added about her escape from Saigon and subsequent move to Quebec. Hope she writes a sequel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A winner, April 11 2013
By 
P. Anastasiades "P. Anastasiades" (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
This book opens one"s eyes and hearts to the plight of our Vietnamese immigrants. It would be a perfect gift to those who moan about their supposed hardships. Here are a people who lost all and suffered terrible hardships, who came to our beautiful country with nothing, They had to learn a new language and they prospered.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is more like a book of poetry., March 29 2013
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
The book is beautifully written, but for me it merely scratched the surface of the story. I wanted to hear more details. Each chapter was just a hint and left me wanting to read more about the Vietnam Nam war and the personal stories of those who managed to survive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and haunting, Feb. 13 2013
By 
Rodge (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Hardcover)
Ru is as good as it's title's promise, a beautiful meditation that never loses its haunting effect, even as it travels from sorrow to triumph to despair. This is a fine, original styled work that, coming in under 200 pages, is nowhere near overlong, and is far from self-indulgent. Thuy lets her work do the talking and the effect is a panorama of experience of those who escaped Vietnam and those who did not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true gem!, Jan. 16 2013
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Hardcover)
This book is truly a gem. As one reads the pages, one can visualize the scenery, feel the emotions and understand the characters. It flows easily between past, present and future while maintaining the reader's engagement. The book also left me with a clearer understanding of the plight of the refugee and a keen pride as to the response of Canadians to the Vietnamese refugees during this time period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book., Dec 10 2012
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Ce commentaire est de: Ru (Paperback)
It was great to see this on on the short list for the Giller Prize. It is a very interesting book. The way she goes from page to page following her last idea is unusual but stimulating.
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Ru
Ru by Kim Thuy (Paperback - Sept. 6 2012)
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