Book review: Do Not Say We Have Nothing

MADELEINE THIEN’s third novel is a deeply profound tale where music, mathematics and family history are beautifully woven together.

Madeleine Thien

Granta, €15.20;

ebook, €9.99

Opening at the end, the narrative jumps forwards and backwards, starting in 1989 in both Hong Kong and Vancouver.

Thien explains how two sisters survived the coming of the Red Guard, the drama of Tiananmen Square and aggressive land reforms.

A master storyteller, Thien moves on to describe the Sparrow, a genius classical music composer, his otherworldly cousin Zhuli and his obstinate and gifted friend Kai.

In the modern day, Kai’s daughter Marie is the ever-questioning mathematician repairing the story of her splintered family.

Full of wisdom and complexity, comedy and beauty, Thien has delivered a novel that is hugely political and severe, but at the same time delicate and intimate, rooted in the tumultuous history of China.


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