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VINE VOICEon 25 January 2012
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 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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 August 2016
A book as beautiful and moving as its title suggests it might be, 'The Beauty of Humanity Movement' is set in Hanoi (Vietnam's capital), probably around the early 2000s. Old Man Hung sells 'pho' (a noodle soup) from a street cart, but many years ago at the time of the revolution was at the periphery of a group of artists with lofty political ideals. The arrival of an expatriate trying to find answers about her dead father causes him to reflect on the events of that time, and ultimately changes the future for the characters too.

It's a gripping and interesting story, with a good solid plot and well managed transitions between the backstory and the 'present' storyline. The characters are brilliant, with several really loveable ones, and that makes the reader fully engage with the storyline and care deeply about the outcome. The atmosphere of Hanoi and Vietnam is well conjured up, especially the descriptions of food, which are the sort that make you hungry. I read the novel on the plane to visit Hanoi, and it really gave me a very deep and accurate feeling for the city - I felt immediately at home when I arrived. There's not many books which can do that so effectively. It's a story that will make you want to visit (which I'd recommend by the way, great place) and make you crave a bowl of pho.

A lot has been written about the Vietnam war, but this story is about more than that. The war features, but not in any central way. It is far more about the period before it, and the period after. There is little emphasis on the conflict with America, so it gives a different and welcome perspective of Vietnam and its people. It's a story that very much moves on from the war and shows a country that has left that period behind it, which is indeed what I found when I visited.

I'd highly recommend this novel, especially if you are planning to visit Vietnam, but even if you aren't as it is a good read. The characters are great and the plot is engaging. It moves at a good pace and is moving and satisfying. I'll certainly read more books by this author.
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on 29 December 2014
I downloaded a sample before buying given the previous comments about formatting. Sadly nothing has been done to correct this and the Vietnamese names and words are still in a larger font. This 2 star review is posted in the hope that the author/publisher takes note and realises that this is losing them Kindle sales. This review is not intended to reflect the quality of the written content.
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on 20 September 2016
Bought for me by a friend, it's not a book I would have chosen myself, but she always picks such good reads that I stuck with it past the first few pages which I needed to read a few times over. After that it was superb, a real insight into a history I only knew from a few bare facts at school.
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on 3 August 2014
I was not sure that this would fit holiday reading but it was perfect. A great page turner but so beautifully written and conjuring up the atmosphere of past and present Vietnam. Superb characters, a plot that Meeks you want to go on reading and I was sad to get to the end. I am now going to look for the author's other titles.
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on 8 January 2013
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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on 10 October 2013
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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 February 2013
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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on 4 December 2014
I bought this book to read whilst in Vietnam and it didn't disappoint. The combination of narrative, atmospheric writing and an insight into Vietnam's recent past, as well as its current mores, all came together to make the book a delightful find. I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes to read about a place they are visiting.
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on 24 April 2015
Wonderful book - portraying a vivid description of Hanoi and giving some history of the political perspective.
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