Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains

Yasuko Thanh. Penguin Canada/Hamilton, $24.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-06878-4
Thanh’s debut novel, following her 2012 short story collection Floating like the Dead, tells the story of five men who collaborate to overthrow the French colonial forces occupying Vietnam at the turn of the 20th century. The novel starts in Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh’s bedroom, where five men drink, play cards, and plot their revenge against the French occupation. Each of the men has his own problems: Georges-Minh struggles with his parent’s bequeathed wealth and privilege (brought about by collaboration with the French) and turns to opium, revolution, and family for solace; a politician’s son rejects his father’s collusion and the promise of a prominent political career in favor of growing and selling flowers, much to the chagrin of his ambitious wife; a pipa player struggles to fulfill his musical ambitions in a colonized society that no longer has a place for his traditional instrument. Deft touches of magical realism lend this story of love, obligation, and sabotage the mysterious aura referenced in the title. Agent: Denise Bukowski, the Bukowski Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/08/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
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