Man by Kim Thuy

Earlier on in the year I attended an author event with Thuy and read Ru. I adored it. It was beautiful, heart-felt and poetic.

Last week I was in need of some beauty and picked up Thuy’s latest book, Man in anticipation.

Once again, Thuy explores the immigrants story. The search for self, family and belonging is teased out thoughtfully via our narrator, Man.

Language and its many vagaries are played with, although sadly, I suspect that reading this book in English means that we miss many of the subtleties between Vietnamese and French.

Thuy/Man also talks about this issue of language,

To grasp the nuances between two related words, to distinguish melancholy from grief, for example, I weigh each one. When I hold them in my hands, one seems to hang like grey smoke while the other is compressed into a ball of steel. I guess and I grope and the answer is often the right one as the wrong one. I constantly make mistakes.

I confess that Man’s story failed to engage me in the same way as Ru. It was an interesting, enjoyable tale, but it lacked the vibrancy and beauty that I experienced with Ru.

Perhaps the autobiographical nature of Ru added that personal touch that gave its story an extra edge or immediacy. Maybe the love story at the centre of Man felt unbelievable. I also wanted more food stories.

But there is no denying Thuy’s ability to create unique word pictures in both books:

I had learned how to fall asleep very quickly, on command, so that my eyelids would serve as curtains over landscapes or scenes from which I preferred to be absent. I was able to move from consciousness to unconsciousness with a snap of the fingers, between two sentences, or before the remark that would offend me was spoken.

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