Books

New fiction: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

A powerful and fascinating novel, recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize

Li-Ling is used to shifting identities. She lives in Vancouver, where she's known as Marie, as well as by the name given to her by her Chinese parents. She lives with her mother, but her father vanished some time ago and committed suicide in Hong Kong in 1989.

Later that year, Ai Ming, a family friend, lands in Canada, fleeing the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests: a student-led, pro-democracy movement which was brutally suppressed by the Chinese government and led to several hundred demonstrators being gunned down in central Beijing.

Marie's Chinese is poor, but she and Ai Ming become close. She discovers her father was the only one of his family not to die of starvation during a famine and that he and Ai Ming's father were good friends, having met as musicians at the Shanghai Conservatory. Then the Cultural Revolution, an anti-intellectual movement spearheaded by then-Chinese leader Chairman Mao, tears them apart.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a powerful and fascinating novel, recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize. It’s worth your time.

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing is published by Granta (£12.99)

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