- Congratulations to Madeleine Thien, winner of the 2006 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award for Certainty. See all of this year's nominees.
Certainty Paperback – Mar 27 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Thien's debut novel draws its meager impetus from the tale of Matthew and Ani, two 10-year-olds in the village of Sandakan in Japanese-occupied Borneo during WWII, whose lyrical idylls buffer them from the horrors of war. Romance blossoms when they reunite eight years later, in 1953, but their past—Matthew's dead father collaborated with the Japanese—splits them up, sending the secretly pregnant Ani off to Jakarta and Matthew to Vancouver and a marriage (to Clara). Matthew and Ani's saga intertwines with the latter-day story of Matthew and Clara's daughter, Gail, a radio documentary maker, whose cozy but bland relationship is buffeted by an affair and who decides to find out about her father's mysterious past with Ani. Thien (Simple Recipes) uses this narrative as a peg for much elegiac meditation interspersed with muzzy reflections on fractals, code breaking and snowflake formation—her metaphor for the minute contingencies that shape human motivation. Her prose is poised but wan, and the patchwork story, despite jolts of tragic history, doesn't elicit much interest in her characters or their roads not taken. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
In her beautifully written debut novel, Thien spins a silky web of a story, a lovely and powerful multigenerational saga that explores a family's secrets stemming from events that occurred in a Malaysian village during the Japanese occupation of World War II. Death lurks behind much of the story and, in fact, the main character, Gail Lim, dies in the opening pages. The story begins there, though, and easily moves readers from the past to the present, as family members detail their own, sometimes very painful, recollections of events. These events include the death of Lim's grandfather at the hands of Japanese soldiers as well as the grandfather's possible involvement in wartime collaborations with the enemy, a lost love lurking in the jungles of that stricken Malaysian village, and the story of the eventual migration of the family, via Australia and Hong Kong, to Vancouver, British Columbia. There is a light, translucent quality to Thien's prose that casts a certain dreamlike quality on the tale, and yet the magnetic plot will keep the reader's interest through the end. Kathleen Hughes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the narrative frequently has a sombre tone, Thien does give readers glimpses of hope, serenity, and self-acceptance. Her writing is eloquent and flows beautifully as the characters take flight between Vancouver, The Netherlands, Jakarta, Malaysia, and Australia, mirroring the universality of their personal struggles.
Certainty is a novel about families and secrets, grieving and acceptance, and the power of love. After reading this novel, the reader is reminded that one thing that is certain is that all of our lives will eventually come to an end. Madelaine Thien's novel may evoke sadness, but it is definitely a worthwhile read. [Amy MacDougall]
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book helped me remember Vancouver, its cultures and people, and see its links back into the Asian diaspora. My thanks to the writer. I look forward to her next book.
It's been a year since Gail died. Ansel still remembers the warmth of her body next to his and cherishes the sound of her voice on tape. Gail had begun a documentary. It was important to her and it's unfinished. It is the story of her father Matthew Lim and an investigation of her grandfather's death. The story line begins in the future and travels to the past in a unique writing style.
Matthew's father had once own a rubber plantation in Malaysia but the Japanese army now controlled it. Before the war they had lived in a nice house. But the war had changed many things. The Japanese had taken over the school and now the students had to learn to sing Japanese songs. Matthew and his best friend, Ani, were only ten-years old, but they roamed the jungles. Years later Matthew and Ani meet again, and their love reawakens, but cannot overcome politics and the suspicions that Matthew's father assisted the Japanese. They quietly go their separate ways; Ani does not tell him that she is pregnant. Matthew goes on with his life moving to Vancouver. He marries Clara and cherishes their daughter Gail.
Each character in "Certainty" weaves in his, or her, own thread of the past. Each recounts their individual history in such a way that the story becomes a tapestry of many lives. The story flows smoothly. The characters jump off the pages and come to life. Gail is driven to find the truth. This is not a novel that I could pick up and read in one setting. The words must be pondered. The truth behind the words must be sought. Madeleine Thien is a talented writer and I believe we will be reading more of her books. I highly recommend this book.
Received book free of charge.