Kim Thuy is such a beautiful writer. You know when you open the pages of a Kim Thuy book that you’ll be enveloped in warmth and awed by her lyrical prose. She’s quite like Sarah Winman in that both have such a stunning and beautiful command of words. They both have this incredible ability to turn everyday words into something that literally takes your breath away. There is never one extra word unnecessarily used. It is why Thuy can write a slight 130-page book but leave you fully satisfied as though finishing a 300+-page book.
Sheila Fischman always translates from the French to English with just as much beauty as Thuy writes. She makes it just as lyrical and lovely as I’m sure it sounds in French.
I did truly love the style of how this was written, with its short vignettes of stories and I love how each short chapter was printed with its chapter “titles” printed along the side and not across the top of the page as is usually found. The English meaning of the Vietnamese word, if one was used, was translated below it. All of these things made Vi a special book.
So why am I only giving this 3.5 stars and not the full 4? It’s just that I found the character of Vi to be very flat and dry. I felt nothing but a growing distance from her, and as I’ve now read one or two more books after finishing this one, I find myself struggling to remember what Vi was about? There wasn’t a lot of depth to her character, I found, and perhaps not as much to the other characters as well. While each of the “stories” told within the book were very good to read, there was just something flat and distant about Vi?
I also read Vi for the Reading Women Challenge, this was for the Translation square, and bonus points! It was also translated by a woman. We’re less than a month away from the Giller Prize Longlist announcement and I fully anticipate seeing Vi on that longlist. Don’t you?