Published: 16 March 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 480 pages
Do Not Say We Have Nothing
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017
SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016
WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE 2016
SHORTLISTED FOR THE PARAGRAPHE HUGH MACLENNAN PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016.
In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming.
As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao's ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China's relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming - and for Marie.
Written with exquisite intimacy, wit and moral complexity, Do Not Say We Have Nothing magnificently brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy, which still resonates for a new generation. It is a gripping evocation of the persuasive power of revolution and its effects on personal and national identity, and an unforgettable meditation on China today.
‘[An] ambitious saga... Thien's intricate narrative lays bare the lives of three musical friends living through an era when serious music had to survive driven underground’ Phil Baker
‘[This] will cement Thien as one of Canada's most talented novelists, at once a successor to Rohinton Mistry and a wholly singular stylist...A supple epic about that which remains behind after each new beginning... Gorgeous’
‘A moving and extraordinary evocation of the 20th-century tragedy of China, and deserves to cement Thien's reputation as an important and compelling writer’
‘A moving and extraordinary evocation of the tragedy, and deserves to cement Thien's reputation as an important writer... Powerful’ Isabel Hilton
‘Bold, beautiful and profoundly affecting, Do Not Say We Have Nothing celebrates the indestructibility of the individual, and both declares and illustrates the transcendent power of art. An exceptional novel’ James Scudamore, author
‘Imagination, Nabokov says, is a form of memory. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a perfect example of how a writer's imagination keeps alive the memory of a country's and its people's past when the country itself tries to erase the history. With insight and compassion, Madeleine Thien presents a compelling tale of China of 20th century’ Yiyun Li, author
‘Intelligent, powerful and moving. This is Madeleine Thien's magnum opus’ Tan Twan Eng, author
‘Madeleine Thien is a serious and gifted writer. With compassion and meticulous precision, she explores ordinary lives shaped by extraordinary political events. Like a beautiful and complex piece of music, the narration unfolds in layers, returning again and again to the central themes of family, memory and loss’ Ma Jian, author
‘The tragedy and absurdity of modern China never felt so alive as in Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Thien writes of an extended family of musical prodigies whose loves and ambitions are thwarted at every turn. The meticulous research that went into this novel about real-life events makes it so utterly believable that your heart aches. Thien's writing is as lyrical as works of Bach and Shostakovich that inspire her musician characters, but her tour de force is the last movement of this symphonic novel in which the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square unfolds at a thrilling, fortissimo pace’ Barbara Demick, author
‘This is a resplendent, epic masterpiece of a novel that brings to light a dark period of Chinese history through wit, humour and nuanced storytelling. The characters linger long after the last page’ Alice Pung, author