Book Review: The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

This is my first book by the author however, there has been a lot of buzz on Instagram about this book and since it is a work of historical fiction, I thought it would be worth my while.

‘The Mountain Sings’ tells two stories. First, a coming of age story about Huong, a young girl growing up with her grandmother in war torn Viet Nam in the nineteen seventies and of Dieu Lan (Huong’s grandmother), her journey through life in a country ravaged by war and suffering and how she survived the loss, pain and tribulations that came with the times. It is a heart wrenching tale of courage, love and hope.

Reading a book such as this makes me understand why I love historical fiction so much. Apart from some sketchy information I have had prior to this time about the Viet Nam war which came mostly from American movies, I have never really known much about this country, it’s people and their culture. This was an awesome introduction to Viet Nam’s history. The story was well written although quite tragic and at some point a bit too much for me to read in one go. However, it was a great experience and one of my best reads so far this year. I hope to look out for more books to read about this country and their history and I will also look out for other books by the author especially her poetry.

I highly recommend.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Published: March 17th 2020 by Algonquin Books

Pages: 342

Genre: Historical Fiction


The Author:

Profile: Nguyen Phan Que Mai, Author Of 'The Mountains Sing' : NPR

Dr Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is an award-winning writer in both Vietnamese and English. Her eight books of poetry, short fiction and non-fiction in Vietnamese have received the 2010 Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize in the Poetry Competition celebrating 1,000 Years of Hanoi. Her debut novel and first book in English, THE MOUNTAINS SING, is an International Bestseller, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, Winner of the Blogger’s Book Prize 2021, and Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for “a work of exceptional quality” and for “contribution to peace and reconciliation”. The novel has been named a best book of 2020 by many media establishments including NPR and the Washington Independent Review of Books. Quế Mai is the translator of seven books published in Vietnam and the United States, and has received the Vietnam Writers Association’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advancement of Vietnamese Literature Overseas. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the UK’s Lancaster University. She currently divides her time between Indonesia and Vietnam. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, BBC Vietnamese, Lit Hub, Poets & Writers Magazine, among others. She has just been named by Forbes Vietnam as one of 20 inspiring women of 2021.


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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

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  1. I also finished it yesterday. It was a 3 star read for me. The last few chapters were just too convenient and tidy for me. It was almost as if the author created slots and had to push each character into its allotted one. However, the writing was lucid and clear and very captivating. I dare anyone to DNF it. It echoes pachinko just in a smaller package.

    Liked by 1 person

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