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4 Reviews
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book but DON'T read this on Kindle, 25 Jan 2012
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DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I loved this book, so full of feeling and emotion - but the Kindle version has formatting problems and all the Vietnamese words appear huge in comparison to the remaining script. As this includes all the names, the problem occurs several times on most pages. This has resulted in several Amazon.com reviewers rating the book as 1 or 2 stars where it should definitely be up in the top rankings.

The main character, Old Man Hung, is a master at the art of making Pho, the local Vietnamese soup that is so popular for breakfast. Once he had a shop, but all this has been taken away by the authorites over the years and now he scrapes together a living as an itinerrant Pho seller, setting up shop in a different spot each day, still evading the authorites.
His home now is in a poverty stricken wasteland by a muddy lake, where he holds together a community of down and outs living in rotting shacks. Once, however, he ran a Pho cafe, a central meeting point for many of the art community who discussed poetry and tried to express opinions against the regime. Needless to say they were all eventually arrested, tortured, murdered. Only Hung remains with his failing memories, trying to scratch a living.

Hung's only 'family' are Binh and his son Tu. Hung knew Binh's father, Dao, a prominent figure amongst the artists, the only person who treated Hung as an intelligent person and drew him into the artists' fold. Hung preserves his memory and is, in turn, watched over by Binh and Tu.

Into this fascinating mix comes Maggie, a Vietnamese who escaped as a child, with her mother, in the last of the evacuation planes to America. Her artist father never made it and she has returned to Hanoi to try and trace memories of him that might linger amongst artistic circles. As a Vietnamese American she is known as Viet Kieu, a foreigner with Vietnamese features, but still a foreigner.

The interactions between these four people and the history wrapped up in their stories is beautifully evoked by Ms Gibb. The feel of modern day Hanoi, with its mix of expensive hotels and tourists, alongside extreme poverty, is tangible.
I enjoyed Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb, but this was even better - I didn't want to put this book down. I had other books I should have been reading but this one kept pushing itself forward. One of the best books I've read for a long time.

Read it!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful tale, 10 Oct 2013
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R. George (Wales) - See all my reviews
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I loved this book, it was extremely engaging and well written - I couldn't put it down once I had started reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Visit Hanoi via fiction, 14 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Beauty of Humanity Movement (Paperback)
This is a delightful book set in Hanoi that darts back and forth in time, building up a history and weaving together the lives of several characters. It is a must for visitors who want to experience the city through writing, Hanoi just lifts off the pages. In this novel the reader truly does experience the city through author Camilla Gibb's eyes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, 8 Jan 2013
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I bought this book after visiting Hanoi. It paints a brilliant picture of the contrast between the world we tourists see and the struggle many people have to survive. Using the staple Hanoi dish of pho as the core it weaves the story of modern characters with the recent history of Vietnam in a deeply personal and emotional journey for young and old protagonists and you find yourself really rooting for them to all find a happy ending.
My only criticism, and this is of kindle rather than the book, is that all the Vietnamese words appear in a huge font, which is a bit distracting.
Highly recommended whether you've been to Vietnam or not!
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The Beauty of Humanity Movement
The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb (Paperback - 1 April 2012)
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