Cover image for Memories of a pure spring
Memories of a pure spring
Dương, Thu Hương.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion East, 2000.
Physical Description:
340 pages ; 25 cm
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This novel tells the story of a singer and her composer husband and explores their relationships passionate growth in the midst of war. Huong vividly depicts the betrayal she and a generation of Vietnamese artists and writers experienced after the war: the conditions inside re-education prison camps, and the corruption at the heart of the new regime they brought to power.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Huong's previous novels, including Novel without a Name (1995), exploded as brightly as the bombs that burst over her homeland during the Vietnam War. Delivering not destruction but revelations to her readers, her books have brought suffering to Huong: she was imprisoned and her books are banned in Vietnam. But she continues to live and write in Hanoi as her work earns acclaim in the West, and her third novel, a work of exceptional lyricism, psychological acumen, and high drama, boldly explores the interface between totalitarian politics and art. Hoang Hung, a composer and leader of a theatrical troupe that bravely performs under fire during the war, falls in love with young Suong the instant he hears her sing. They marry, and by the end of the war Suong is famous, but Hung runs afoul of the Communists. Unable to practice his art, he falls into despair, places his family in grave danger, and inadvertently forces Suong to use her voice as a weapon to protect her family. Huong, a brilliant storyteller, skillfully illuminates the human spirit's capacity for brutality and compassion, betrayal and beauty, in each elegantly drawn and profoundly poignant scene in this complex and timeless novel of conscience, which will take its rightful place beside the works of Nina Berberova and Anchee Min. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Often considered the literary conscience of postwar Vietnam, Huong (Paradise of the Blind) tells the wrenching story of three people coping with the brutal realities, disillusion and dispossession suffered by Vietnamese artists and intellectuals after the "war against the Americans." Hung is a composer and director of an artistic troupe forced from his job after the revolution; his wife, Suong, is a renowned singer stifled by the responsibility of supporting the family; rounding out the triangle is Suong's jealous, scrappy younger brother, Vinh. Huong vividly captures the vertiginous period after the Communists' victory, when Hung is shocked to find that his wartime friends have suddenly become high-ranking, impassive bureaucrats in command of his fate. Once an idealistic revolutionary, Hung is crushed to realize that redistribution of wealth means only that a new class of apparatchiks has gleefully seized power and material comforts. Hung accidentally ends up on a boat fleeing Vietnam that is quickly intercepted by the authorities. He's sent to prison for re-education, then forced to live as a nonperson after his release, with no identity card, food rations or possibility of official employment. He anesthetizes the pain of his uselessness and the memories of brutality with alcohol, and his marriage nearly unravels, but a suicide attempt by Suong has the dubious effect of temporarily reconciling the family. While Huong has a fine ear for the smug thickheadedness of Communist bureaucrats, her observations about family life and the importance of art are overwrought. The author tends to overexplain what her characters are thinking, following up with redundant interior monologues. The translation is serviceable but unpolished; cliches slip into the descriptions (Suong indulges in "the pleasures of the flesh"; another character longs for "the open road"), and the dialogue is occasionally transposed into an unnatural, slangy American English. An uneven but powerful testament to the abuses of an oppressive regime, the novel's artistry doesn't always measure up to its moral urgency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

From the author of two critically acclaimed previous novels, Novel Without a Name (LJ 1/95) and Paradise of the Blind (LJ 2/15/93), comes a third on the subject of life in postwar Vietnam, her native country. Duong, the leader of an artistic troupe and later an exile, brings a unique sense of realism and credibility to the story of composer Hung Pham and his wife, Mai Suong. On the exterior, readers find a successful composer who is happily married to his child-bride and is the father of two young daughters. Delving deeper into this novel, which is steeped in a heavy political climate, readers discover a complex telling of love and betrayal on various levels: between a husband and wife, a man and his art, and a man and his country. Duong takes readers on a journey into the human psyche by looking at the frailty of the human condition and asks readers to confront issues like depression, attempted suicide, infidelity, and drug and alcohol abuse. The threads of love that bind her characters together are the same threads that break them. An intense and sometimes dark novel; Asian literature collections and libraries with Duong's other works will want to have this one.--Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.