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The Mountains Sing: our review

Cober srl

The saga of a family that unfolds throughout the 20th century, in a country divided and scarred by famine, wars and revolutions. Three generations of strong women, facing life with courage and determination. A story that is powerful and lyrical at the same time, reminding us of the value of family ties and the obstacles we are willing to overcome to remain close to the people we love.

The plot

From their mountain refuge, little Huong and her grandmother, Diệu Lan, hear the roar of American bombers and see the glow of fires ravaging Hanoi. Until that moment, for Huong, the war was the shadow that sucked in her parents, and now that shadow is enveloping her and her grandmother as well. Back in the city, they discover that their house has been completely destroyed, yet they are not discouraged and decide to rebuild it, brick by brick. To instil confidence in her granddaughter, Dieu Lan begins to tell her the story of her life; of the years on the family estate under French occupation, during the Japanese invasions, and how everything had changed with the advent of the Communists. Of her desperate flight to Hanoi without food or money, and the choice to abandon her five children along the way, in the hope that sooner or later they would find each other. And so it had happened, because she had never lost heart.

By the time the new house is ready, the war is over. The veterans return from the front and even Huong can finally embrace her mother, Ngoc, again. But she is a very different woman from the one she remembered. The war has stolen her words and it will be up to Huong to give her a voice, to help her free herself from the burden of too many secrets…

Our review

The book is a rollercoaster of emotions and sorrows, with a – slightly – uphill start, but growing page by page.

The journey narrated with great transport by Nguyen Phan Que Mai is as magical as it is painful and upsetting.

Amid war, famine, various dictatorships and rebellions, in “The Mountains Sing” the writer tells a story that is intense, harsh and delicate at the same time. This novel is about courage, about love, about the values that matter.

A story that unfolds throughout the 20th century and plunges us into the horrors of the Vietnam War, which shows us the enduring family ties and the strength of women in the face of death.

The novel centres on the story of the Trần family, led by the unwavering matriarch Trần Diệu Lan, as they face success and hardship, war and destruction. Narrated in the first person in two different alternating timelines, the story follows first Dieu Lan, forced to flee with her children during the French and Japanese occupations, and her granddaughter Huong who grew up with both parents absent, and on the frontline during the Vietnamese war and the ensuing history of Hanoi also torn apart by the Vietnamese civil war.

The only consolation along with the songs and her grandmother’s fortitude, for Houng, is reading. Knowledge is the only tool that can save humanity.

“The Mountains Sing” is a novel that, against the backdrop of a war, tells us with empathy and humanity about family, devotion, perseverance, humanity and the strength to fight against the difficulties of life to return to those we love. A book we absolutely recommend if you love historical fiction and family sagas. A novel that acquaints us with Vietnamese culture, traditions, customs and the wisdom contained in their proverbs.