Book Review – The Mountains Sing

I am unable to remember where I saw this title but am so glad that I read the book !! The Vietnam that we know and the Vietnam where The Mountains Sing are two ends of the spectrum of war. When we visited Cambodia and Laos, we saw first hand the devastation caused by Unexploded Ordnance. Do read – Lush Green, Landlocked, Languid Laos to understand the impact of America’s unnecessary, ill intentioned foray into Vietnam.

Mountains Sing

The book feels like an autobiography even though its termed as historical fiction. Am sure some of the incidents are part of the author’s life…. I can clearly see Grandma Dieu Lan and the long walk from her village to Hà Nội. Unimaginable grit and resilience in so many mothers like her to ensure her children stay safe.

Loved the Vietnamese proverbs that are peppered throughout the book. A few of them are reposted here – “Perseverance grinds iron into needles”; “Good luck hides inside bad luck”; “Fire proves gold, adversity proves men”.

Several learnings from this book – Did you know that Vietnam has been invaded by the Chinese, the Mongolians, the French, the Japanese and ofcourse Americans ? The French were there for nearly 70 years !!!! The Japanese again in this book also come across as terribly cruel. Remember how they treated the citizens of Manchuria in Book Review – Wild Swans, Three Daughters of China ?

In Vietnam too menstruating women were considered dirty … sad to see this as a common thread across many cultures :(.

I was thrilled to find a haiku by Basho in the book “Quiet pond, a frog leaps into, the sound of water”. Not so thrilled to see how communism erodes meritocracy and makes mobs out of ordinary folks !

The world has forgotten that US of A sprayed Agent Orange across north Vietnam. Several children were still born or with deformities. :(:( Ahhh we live in a sad world where the developed nations commit atrocities but get away scot free … Colonial Britain in India, Belgium in Congo, America in several countries, the most recent being Afghanistan, Portugal and Spain in South America … the list is endless.

Do read the book atleast to get a proper perspective about America’s war with Vietnam. It will cut deep if you are a sensitive human being which I think most people are.

Nguyễn Phan Que Mai thank you for writing The Mountains Sing … much needed to record what happened to a couple of generations of Vietnamese.

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