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Paradise of the Blind: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060505591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060505592
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This staunchly unsentimental, evocative novel, originally published in Huong's native Vietnam and beautifully translated by Duong and McPherson, offers a narrative rich in detail and free of cliche. The author, who lives with her children in Hanoi, depicts the complexity of Vietnamese culture--the allegiance to family and ancestors, the symbolic value of food, class distinctions and the continuing sense of desperation mingled with pride. The protagonist, Hang, a physically fragile young woman of the '80s, recalls Hanoi in the previous decade. While there are subtle allusions to war and peacetime, Huong's focus is on the shifting, uneasy relationships between modernized Hang and her traditionalist mother, a merchant who peddles food; Hang's selfish, hypocritical uncle, a communist peasant; and Hang's comparatively wealthy, unconditionally loving aunt. Contrasts between young, old, urban and rural, help to convey the full variety of Vietnamese lifestyles. McPherson's introduction provides essential background information without spoiling the plot of Huong's unquestionably powerful tale.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Huong's exquisite book, banned in her own country, introduces readers to daily life in Vietnam under Communist rule in the 1970s. Readers will be captivated by this story of a young girl growing into womanhood under a regime that negates many of the people's old values and customs and tears families apart. Hang grows up seeking the name of her father and the circumstances of his disappearance and death. Concomitantly, her mother becomes more and more desperate and distant in her struggle to earn a living as a street snack seller, a job decried by Uncle Chinh, a loyal Communist, as reminiscent of old capitalist ways. Her mother is also tied to another remnant of the past; she will sacrifice health, food, and her own self-respect to cater to Chinh's needs and expects her daughter to do the same. As a young adult, Hang is sent to work in Russia, and the author describes that country with equal skill. The book captures the enormous beauty and sensory delights of this unique land, as well as the degradation and grim realities of the post-civil-war period. The translator's notes guide readers through the politics.
- Virginia Ryder, West Potomac High School, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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It is a good read and makes you think!
Crossfit Len
Looks like the communism in Vietnam is very different than in the EU countries.
reader
Not quite caricatures, but a bit too close nevertheless.
Crazy Fox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Rae on June 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
It's a challenge to really get into the heart of this book. It is easy for critics to praise it as a book that accurately portrays the effects of communism in Vietnam, however one must look far beyond that. The book comments much more on the evolving modern world clashing with traditional customs, or the struggle of family loyalty, then it is a political commentary on communism.

In fact, much of Huong's novel could easily be placed in any other setting and still be able to offer us the same thematic value. While I will not deny that here lies a book that gives us outsiders a wonderful glimpse into Vietnamese culture, something tells me that this was not the intential intention of Huong. The style of the book, and the portrayal of the narrator's mother and sister are all much to realistic for me to believe that this book is souly a commentary on the changing Vietnamese, and I look to all the readers to ask themselves if they cannot identify with the basic human nature portrayed ever so beautifully in this novel. Though it made be hard for the readers to relate, we can at least acknowledge that there is soul in this piece of literature,.

The story itself is quite a complex one. The book seems to take place in the past, the further past, and the even further past, and lets all of the stories grow and mature until in the end when they weave their way into one.

The book is completely worth reading and the insight gained from it will be well worth every minute you spend on it. However, the book is slightly distant and not quite so easy to connect to. I'll assume this has to do with the cultural differences between myself and the author and the result of the book being translated to English. However, the book is a must read. It will leave you with a hunger and thirst for life and an appreciation for living.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. Stone on August 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
A short response to any book by Duong Thu Huong is a good deal like a short response to the Bible--it will be lacking. This is especially the case with Huong's 1988 work Paradise of the Blind, the story of a young Hanoi woman, Hang, forced to give up her university studies and work in the Soviet Union in order to support her mother. This is only half the story though. Hang reached adulthood after the heroic period of the twentieth century in Vietnam, namely the wars for independence and reunification, as well as the revolution. These events led to colossally momentous experiences in the lives of Hang's family--her mother and aunt whom she loves and the uncle she hates--so profoundly shaping were the experiences of these times that there consequences for Hang's family have nearly as deep consequences for her own life. Ultimately the only way that Hang is able to escape the chains bind her family members to the past is by abandoning her connection to the it.

Hang's troubles actually began a decade before she was born when Uncle Chinh returned triumphant from the war against the French to introduce land redistribution to his own and her mother's village in the middle 1950's. The approach Chinh took to land reform essentially ensured that he was going to be less than beloved by any person in the village--finding the most depraved and degraded of the village's lumpen proletariat and elevating them to the status of rural working class heroes. The paternal side of Hang's family has their property ruthlessly expropriated and her father is forced into internal exile.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrea on May 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book Paradise of the Blind describes the hardships of three young Vietnamese women. Paradise of the Blind is a very interesting and truthful book that allows readers to understand what Vietnamese go through daily. Written by Dyong Thu Huong, Paradise of the Blind goes in great depths describing the Vietnamese's idealistic hope and betrayal of Communism.
This book focuses on the life of a young lady, Hang, and her relationship with both her mothers and fathers relatives. Hang is a twenty-year-old exported worker in Russia, who has a series of flashbacks. On her train ride to Moscow, Hang recalls how her uncle Chinh tore her family apart and destroyed the relationship between her and her mother. Her mother Que moved to Hanoi and became a street vendor because of the land reforms. Hang blames her uncle Chinh for her father's departing, her Aunt Tam becoming poor, and her mother becoming a street vendor. She realizes that she can only move on with her life and succeed only if she distances herself from her family and their history. "I can't squander my life tending these faded flowers, the legacy of past crimes," (Huong 57). Her Aunt Tam is convinced and determined that her hard work will benefit Hang someday. Hang is forcefully torn between her mother Que and her Aunt Tam.
Overall, Dyong Thu Huong expresses a great deal of description of both the characters and their thoughts and feelings. One fact that really shocked and surprised me was that Paradise of the Blind was one of the first books written under Vietnamese Communist Regime ever translated into English. This book is well translated and is an easy read. It makes you think and appreciate how lucky you really are. If you truly want to understand the history of Vietnam and what life is like under communism, this is a must read.
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