ebookclassics

Mãn by Kim Thúy

man

Back in March, I wrote a little bit in my review for The Frangipani Hotel about my distant relationship with my Vietnamese heritage. I had absolutely no intention of reading another book about Vietnamese culture, yet I still spontaneously requested a copy of Mãn when I was browsing on Netgalley one day. Perhaps now that I’m getting older something inside of me is curious about my heritage. Or maybe the blurb mentioned Vietnamese food and I was sold.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
Mãn is also the name of the book’s protagonist. She shares the story of her life going back and forth in time from Vietnam with each of her three mothers to married life as a new immigrant in Montreal. In the kitchen of her husband’s restaurant, cooking becomes a labour of love for Mãn, and she enjoys how food invokes memories of loved ones and her childhood. One restaurant customer Mãn befriends encourages her to modernize the restaurant and become more entrepreneurial about her talents. Soon the restaurant is a go-to destination and Mãn begins travelling around the world teaching and sharing her recipes. Life is busy, but Mãn is content and satisfied with her place in life. On a trip to Paris, she meets Luc and quickly falls into a passionate love affair. Her relationship with Luc puts Mãn in touch with a part of herself she buried deep inside as a dutiful Vietnamese daughter and wife. However, their feverish love cannot last as family and responsibility will inevitably summon them back to reality.

THE AUTHOR
Kim Thúy is a Vietnamese-born Canadian writer. Her first novel, Ru, won the Governor General’s Award for French language fiction in 2010 and the English translation was a shortlisted nominee for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Ru won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in 2013. Mãn is her second English-translated novel.

THE GOOD
Everything you’ve probably heard about Mãn being a quiet, beautiful and poetic novel is true; the story is a soulful and exquisite experience. In addition, Kim Thúy provides an insightful look at Vietnamese history, culture and cuisine.

THE BAD
Mãn shares stories about her three mothers, but I honestly could never tell which one she was talking about and was frequently confused.

CONCLUSION
When I began reading the book, I thought, “Oh great, a story about a mute and passive Vietnamese woman. Let the stereotypes begin.” But perhaps I was just railing against my own experience with the expectation of how Vietnamese girls are supposed to behave.

Mãn is about a woman who is dutiful and willing to make sacrifices, and it took me by surprise how touched I was to read how her character transcends a role shaped by culture and tradition to bloom into a woman full of life and empowerment. Mãn’s happiness is sadly yanked away, but the ending subtly suggests that a little fire was still left burning inside her and this is what I will remember the most about the story.

4/5 Stars

NOTE: I would like to thank Random House Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book through Netgalley.

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16 comments on “Mãn by Kim Thúy

  1. Another Book Blog
    August 8, 2014

    I’m not even sure why, but I LOVE that cover.

    Like

  2. Naomi
    August 8, 2014

    This one sounds good! I requested it, too, actually, but I think something in the communication lines went wrong and it didn’t arrive with the other book I requested. I told myself “Oh well, I didn’t really have time, anyway”, but your review makes me sorry it didn’t come. I will just have borrow it from the library. Did you read Ru?

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 8, 2014

      I think you would like this book. I haven’t read Ru, but I think I should.

      Like

  3. lauratfrey
    August 8, 2014

    Hearing so much great stuff about this one. I have it on NetGalley too (my first time using it!) It’s the current pick on Hello Hemlock as well, on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc-WOz9xOEk&list=UUDNaxxhz2OnluYuDcfktKYg

    So I think I’m going to read this next. I need something to balance the Outlander shenanigans!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 8, 2014

      I saw your tweet about Outlander putting you to sleep. It’s a good book, but so long!

      Like

  4. lauratfrey
    August 8, 2014

    If I can figure out how to get it from NetGalley to my Kobo, that is. 🙂

    Like

  5. ebookclassics
    August 8, 2014

    It is ridiculously hard and took me forever to figure out. Have you downloaded Adobe Digital Editions?

    Like

  6. kmn04books
    August 8, 2014

    Did you have any problems with the formatting? For some reason when I sent it to my kindle, it was kind of jumbled up. (Not unreadable, but a little confusing at times. I wonder if it’s because my kindle can’t read some of the characters??)

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 8, 2014

      I read it on my Kobo and the text was really small and the pages off-centre, so I had to keep blowing up the text and moving the page around. Very annoying, but I got used to constantly fixing it. I thought maybe it was just my Kobo, so it’s interesting that you had issues with your Kindle.

      Like

  7. Cecilia
    August 8, 2014

    I’m not familiar with this author and I’m glad you posted about her/her book. The only other Vietnamese author I know of is Nam Le.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 11, 2014

      I’m not familiar with many Vietnamese authors as well. I think you would enjoy this book. It’s really quiet and beautiful.

      Like

  8. N@ncy
    August 9, 2014

    I read Ru in French I read it in Oct 2012 and fell in love with that tiny book. I is absolutely beautiful, poetic. I hope more people will read Kim Thuy. The book is also an excellent selection to read if you want to ‘brush up on your French reading skills’. The book contains 113 vignettes longest: pp 110 ( 38 sentences ) and shortest: pp 143. ( 1 sentence).

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 11, 2014

      I’m so jealous you are able to read Kim Thuy’s book in its original French. I haven’t read Ru, but I was so impressed with Man I think I should try to read it by the end of the year.

      Like

  9. heavenali
    August 9, 2014

    I had heard of this before and so was interested in your review. I think it could be one I’d like though I have too many books right now.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 11, 2014

      Too many books sounds like my life right now too! 🙂 I’ve been very impressed with your dedication to reading particular authors.

      Like

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