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Wandering Souls

de Cecile Pin

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19121145,361 (3.92)36
There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies - everything in between is speculation. One night, not long after the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh flee their village and embark on a perilous boat journey to Hong Kong. Their parents and four younger siblings make the crossing in another vessel but as weeks go by it becomes clear that only one party has survived the voyage. Anh, Thanh and Minh suddenly find themselves alone in the world, without family or home. They travel on, navigating refugee camps and resettlement centres until, by a twist of fate, they arrive in Thatcher's Britain. Here they must somehow build new lives with only each other to turn to, but will that be enough in a place that doesn't seem to want them?… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 21 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
A book intended to highlight the traumas of the Vietnamese boat diaspora at the end of the war in the 1970s.
Written by a young author who is herself a descendant of that outflow, she delivers a compelling and moving tale. Many died, brutally. Many suffered, physically and sexually, at the hand of bands of pirates. Many who managed to get resettled in third countries arrived as "damage goods".
I was impressed with the balance between pathos and hope. A great book that should be widely read. ( )
  mbmackay | May 14, 2024 |
4.5 stars. The way Pin writes is lyrical and engaging. I want to take little pieces of her sentences and preserve them outside the context of this book, because as beautiful as her writing is, the story is traumatizing. I was already crying by chapter 5. I don't really know why I expected otherwise. It is a story of loss, that's clear from the synopsis. I think maybe I'm used to hearing about that loss in a more clinical way. The duality of the beauty of the prose and the awfulness of the history feels like a gut punch. Or maybe it's how tenderly the characters are treated, despite what they go through. The soft moments of genuine human connection in the worst of places or in the worst of moments.

The last part, when the author is describing Anh's life in the 2000's, feels clunkier than the rest. I think it's the shifting perspectives; we now know who the unseen narrator telling the story is and, while it's interesting to connect where she is in the story to what her mother is going through, I feel like that feels a bit more forced than the rest of the novel and that took me out of it a bit. ( )
  abcace | Mar 11, 2024 |
A story of Vietnamese boat people as they were named here, and the struggles and effect migrating has on their lives when escaping a communist regime looking for a better or safer life. We get the stories of journeys that went wrong - Koh Kra where a group of fishermen captured the boat, raped the women repeatedly and murdered the boys and men. Or closer to home, the container that was opened only to find all the people in it dead and, to add insult to injury, they were identified as Chinese not Vietnamese.

The family that we follow travels in two groups and only one group survives. Sixteen year old Anh and her brothers Manh and Thanh. Her parents and three other siblings died on their crossing and were washed up near Hong Kong weeks later.

After a series of camps in both Hong Kong and here in the UK, they are given a flat in Catford to start their new lives, but what lives. Anh works in a clothing factory, Minh leaves school at sixteen and struggles to find work and Thanh, being younger, studies. As it says so often in the book, this isn't what their parents wished for.

The wandering souls are Anh and her brothers but also the souls of her family who died as they were not buried at home which means that their souls continue to wander, particularly Dao their youngest brother who is restless making for a haunting and haunted story.

Interwoven throughout the narrative are different voices: those of officials through letters such as Thatcher's public appearance of welcoming the Vietnamese whilst privately fighting the policy, Dao and an unnamed narrator who is revealed at the end. I read somewhere recently that it is the children of immigrants who tell the stories in search of their identity and so it is here.

You might call this book a novella. It is short and quick to read as so many of the chapters are not at all long. It is also clear and precise, little waffle, and quite unemotional for what is a very emotional story. The end is uplifting because it is a story of people who have learnt to live again and to find joy in their lives.

We tell ourselves stories to live
Joan Didion The White Album and p234 ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Jan 13, 2024 |
I thought this fictionalization of the immigrant experience of Vietnamese refugees was fantastic. It left me with a lot to ponder about the hidden stories people don't tell and the reasons why we construct narratives around the past. ( )
  fuzzy_patters | Sep 14, 2023 |
4.5⭐️(rounded up)

“Knowledge allows remembering, and remembering is honoring.”

In an effort to flee post-war –Vietnam in search of a new life, a family decides to flee to the United States, where they have family waiting for them. Sixteen-year-old Anh, ten-year-old Thanh and Minh thirteen at the time, are the first to embark on this perilous journey, with their parents and remaining siblings to follow. In a tragic turn of events, their parents and younger siblings do not survive the first leg of the journey. Anh and her brothers are rejected for asylum in the United States and eventually are admitted into the United Kingdom – a journey that takes two years and stretches at refugee camps in Hong Kong and finally in the UK, where they await resettlement. We go on to follow Anh, now responsible for her younger brothers as she and her siblings process their losses, cope with the trauma they have witnessed and endured and strive to adjust to life in their adopted country.

The narrative is presented to us in three threads. The first is the story of Anh and her two siblings, presented in the third person narrative format predominantly from Anh’s perspective that follows their story from 1978 to the present day. The second thread is the first-person narrative of Dao, one of their younger brothers who did not survive the journey along with their parents, floating in the afterlife and keeping watch over his three surviving siblings. The third thread is that of a writer (whose identity is revealed later on in the narrative) in the present day who is drafting a story based on Anh’s experiences, documenting her research. The threads do come across as a tad disjointed and it took a while to get used to the abrupt change in narrative especially when the writer’s thread is presented to us.

“I am trying to carve out a story between the macabre and the fairy tale, so that a glimmer of truth can appear.”

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin is a beautifully written, well-researched, insightful and thought-provoking story. The story touches upon themes of immigration, the refugee crisis, grief, loss, survivor's guilt, generational trauma and healing. While the story sheds a light on the perilous journey of Vietnamese boat refugees and refugees and immigrants all around the world who are compelled to embark on dangerous journeys seeking sanctuary, the author also sheds a light on generational trauma and how grief casts a shadow on the lives of those who are both, directly and indirectly, affected by a loss. I can’t help pondering over the significance of the title of this novel. The novel references Operation Wandering Soul - a psychological warfare campaign exercised by US troops during the Vietnam War that revolved around the Vietnamese belief that their dead must be given a proper burial in their hometown, failing which their souls would aimlessly wander the earth. We also meet a wandering soul, Dao, Anh’s younger sibling. The term "wandering souls" also signifies the sense of displacement and loss that refugees struggle with in their search for a sense of home and belongingness in their adopted country. The author references several horrific real events such as the rape and torture of Vietnamese refugees by Thai fishermen on the Thai island of Koh Kra in 1979 and the Essex Lorry Deaths of 2019 while also giving us a glimpse into the immigration policies and politics in the UK during that period. Overall, this is an incredibly moving and impactful read and a stunning debut. I can’t wait to read more from this talented new author.

I paired my reading with excellent audio narration by Aoife Hinds, Ioanna Kimbook and Ainsleigh Barber that brought these characters and this story to life.

“We fill in the gaps. We find stories in every little moment and gather them up readily. We imagine that the unknown isn’t the worst scenario and we try to make sense of the senseless. We look for the silver linings and the whys and what- ifs and what- should- have- beens. We try to solve the puzzle, pieces scattered through time and space and the deepest corners of our memories. And what better way is there of doing that, what better way is there of processing our past, than by rewriting it?”

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  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 21 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
This powerful debut, longlisted for the Women’s prize, is a heartfelt portrayal of the Vietnamese refugee experience and the tolls of assimilation......The Koh Kra massacre is one of the real-life ordeals foregrounded in Pin’s heartfelt and informative portrayal of the Vietnamese refugee experience and the psychological and emotional tolls of survival and cultural assimilation...Wandering Souls is written in clean, precise prose that is both highly readable and restrained, imbuing the plot with a clear-headed narrative acumen impressive for a debut novel...Wandering Souls is a poignant saga with its grieving, beating heart firmly in the right place, and heralds the arrival of an ambitious and promising new talent.
 
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There are goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies - everything in between is speculation
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There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies - everything in between is speculation. One night, not long after the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh flee their village and embark on a perilous boat journey to Hong Kong. Their parents and four younger siblings make the crossing in another vessel but as weeks go by it becomes clear that only one party has survived the voyage. Anh, Thanh and Minh suddenly find themselves alone in the world, without family or home. They travel on, navigating refugee camps and resettlement centres until, by a twist of fate, they arrive in Thatcher's Britain. Here they must somehow build new lives with only each other to turn to, but will that be enough in a place that doesn't seem to want them?

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