Nominated by:

Openbare Bibliotheek Gent, Belgium

Calgary Public Library, Canada

Halifax Public Libraries, Canada

Ottawa Public Library, Canada

Toronto Public Library, Canada

Vancouver Public Library

Limerick City & County Libraries, Ireland

Newcastle Libraries, UK

Publisher of nominated edition:

Granta Books, UK

Knopf, Canada

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Madeleine Thien      

2018 Longlist

In 1990, ten-year-old Marie and her mother take in a young woman fleeing the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-ming. She brings stories of her family under Chairman Mao, and of revolutionary idealism, music and silence: stories which span the course of China’s recent turbulent history, and have deep and lasting consequences for Ai-ming – and for Marie.

About the author

Madeleine Thien is the author of the story collection Simple Recipes and the novels Certainty and Dogs at the Perimeter, which was shortlisted for Berlin’s 2014 International Literature Award and won the Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2015 LiBeraturpreis. Her books and stories have been translated into 23 languages. Her essays have appeared in Grants, the Guardian, the Financial times, Five Dials and Brick, and her story The Wedding Cake was shortlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. Do Not Say We Have Nothing was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. The daughter of Malaysian-Chinese immigrants to Canada, she lives in Montreal.

(from publisher)

Librarians’ comments

Moving novel about the Cultural Revolution in China. The story of musicians who were persecuted for the music they loved.

A multi-layered literary novel that speaks to the universal questions of fate, love, and passions. A magical combination of pacing, setting, rich characters and masterful storytelling. This novel succeeds at appealing to readers of all types.

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a gorgeously written, compelling epic following a closely connected group of characters through seventy years of hardship and oppression in 20th century China and Canada. Classical music, the passion binding three central characters, is skilfully woven through the story as it moves back and forth through different time periods.

Thien’s concerto of a novel explores the upheavals in Chinese history from 1949 to the present through several generations of friends, family, and lovers whose intersecting destinies are torn apart by the sweep of events. Thien has written an immersive, brilliant, complex, and deeply haunting dissection of Chinese social and political history while raising universal questions about art, loyalty, and identity.

In 1991, Ai-Ming, a post Tienanmen Square exile, is invited into the home of a young Vancouver girl named Marie. Over the course of their friendship, Ai-Ming shares the story of her life. What emerges is a tale of complicity, resistance and betrayal. What fascinates the reader is the intimate and human scale of the novel. In lesser hands, the characters may well have become lost in the novel’s historical sweep which encompasses the modern history of China from the Cultural Revolution to the Pro-Democracy Movement. An intimate, complex, and engaging piece of fiction.

A very powerful story which covers events such as the Cultural Revolution and the transition from Chairman Mao to successive leaders from the 1950s to the present day. A family story spanning three generations with a central theme of music. Bitter sweet but well written and well told. Several reading groups have commented on this title, their  enjoyment of reading and the storyline and awarded five stars.

This novel incorporates a multi-layered story into a single tapestry. It is epic in it’s aspiration and inspiration and the language is lyrical and emotive.

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