The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

The Mountains Sing

“Do you understand why I’ve decided to tell you about our family? If our stories survive, we will not die, even when our bodies are no longer here on this earth.”


The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai tells an entrancing multigenerational saga of the Trần family. The story expands nearly a hundred years and is narrated by two female characters, Grandma Diệu Lan and her granddaughter, Hương. I listened this audiobook from Scribd.

The odyssey of Diệu Lan’s life starts from her youth at her village in nothern part of Vietnam in the period of the French colonisation and the First Indochina War. She shares the agonizing time during Japanese occupation and the Great Hunger. She then starkly describes her dark years during the Land Reform where all her belongings were taken away and as her life and her children’s life are in danger, she had to flee to Hà Noi and look for help. On her way to the city, in order to survive, she’s separated from her six children in different places and only left with the youngest son.

Hương also tells the story of her own during the Vietnam War. She’s left to stay with her grandmother as her father and uncles are drafted and her mother follows the troops later. Hương shares her harrowing experiences as well as the warm love she received while she was brought up by Grandma Diệu Lan.

Each chapter is alternately narrated by two women of different generations and their narratives support each other befittingly. While it is engrossing to read Grandma Diệu Lan’s past it is also tentalizing to anticipate what the next chapter would bring. 

The writer extensively tells the readers the various inhumane acts done by multiple groups of people with different opinions and intentions. She evocatively portrays how wars have the power to convert the good people into monsters. Torn between love for the country and love for the family, many people have difficulty in finding strength to survive the war. Nonetheless, the writer reminds the readers the importance of family and with unfaltering love and determination, there is hope to look forward to in the midst of such chaotic time.

The important roles of women during wartime is emphatically told through the surviving stories of their fights, sacrifices, bravery, perseverance, forgiveness and love. I also love how very human the characters are. Blemishes with flaws here and there but equally having a genuine soul that loyal to the loved ones.

In addition to the rich historical events, the books also features some valuable provers that worth remembering. I think it is the writer’s heartfelt homage to her beautiful mother language. It is a gripping experience with colourful spectrum of emotions. It is also another proof that war is not just about men and their stories. War history through the narrative of women is equally or even more remarkable and captivating, than as told by the men. Kudos!!


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