Until I was more than halfway through this book, I thought I was reading a memoir. That's my fault, because the blurb on the back and the information about the book on the Goodreads book page makes it clear that it's fiction, albeit autobiographical fiction. This fact slipped my mind at some point between acquiring the book and starting to read.
Like the author, the narrator of the work is a Canadian woman of Vietnamese origin, whose family settled in Canada as refugees. I particularly like the structure of the work - a series of short scenes, linked to each other by by threads created by a thought, an emotion, a place, an event or a character. The structure poetically depicts the way in which thinking about the past works, as each memory triggers another. I also like the way the narrative moves back and forward in time and place, with the adult narrator recalling particular events of her childhood and adulthood in Vietnam and Canada, not in chronological order, but as part of the tapestry of her life woven from memories colliding and coalescing. Another thing I like a lot about the work is the prose, which in French is poetic, yet simple and accessible.
However, for some reason, I liked the work more when I thought I was reading a memoir than I did when I realised that it's fiction. I'm not quite sure why, but I think my reaction is connected to the direction in which the narrative moves towards the end of the novel. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there are scenes which have little to do with the refugee experience and the themes of memory, dislocation and belonging which are central to the first part of the work. Those scenes feel forced, rather than organically connected to what happened previously.
Still, this was an interesting book to read, all the more so because I'm currently reading another autobiographical novel, far removed in place, time and themes - George Orwell's [b:Down and Out in Paris and London|393199|Down and Out in Paris and London|George Orwell|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347697665s/393199.jpg|2374970]. It's probably a 3-1/2 star read.
Merci à mon amie Jeanne, qui m'a proposé ce livre et qui l'a lu avec moi.