Yesterday, I finished The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. In the end I couldn’t put the book away and had to finish it in a longer reading session. It is a multigenerational story about the Trần family, with a focus on Diệu Lan, daughter, mother, grandmother. She lives with her granddaughter Hương and tells her little by little about her life. The story spans from about the 1930s to the late 1970s of Việt Nam, a country rattled by foreign occupation, war and the brutal regime of the Communist party.
Before, I only knew the historic bits told from the US-American point of view and stories from people whose parents had fled the country and now live in Germany. The book helped me to learn more about Việt Nams history, about the splitting of the country into North and South, about the French and Japanese occupation and the Communist regime, especially the Land Reform. I’m really not good at history and tend to forget very much, but it helps, when the history is flavoured with personal stories as it is in The Mountains Sing.
Quế Mai is a brilliant author who wrote a compassionate story that is easy to follow and has relatable characters. The author is about the age of Diệu Lans grandkids, lived in the north and south of the Việt Nam and wove personal experiences into the story. If you liked Patchinko (multigenerational family story playing in Korea and Japan), you will also enjoy The Mountains Sing. I can fully recommend both books to anyone who could enjoy multigenerational stories.
Although I find the overall spirit of the book uplifting and loving, it contains heavy topics, so please check content notes if necessary.