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Certainty

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Certainty Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Madeleine Thien's stunning debut novel fulfills all her early promise and introduces a young novelist of vision, maturity, and style.

Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries in present-day Vancouver, finds herself haunted by events in her parents' past in wartorn Asia, a past which remains a mystery that fiercely grips her imagination.

As a child, Gail's father, Matthew Lim, wandered the Leila Road and the jungle fringe with his lovely Ani, a girl whose early bond with Matthew will affect his life always. As children, they found themselves together under the terrifying shadow of war in Japanese-occupied Sandakan, Malaysia. The war shatters their families and splits the two apart until years later, when they remeet only to be separated again. The legacy of their connection is later inherited by Matthew's wife, Clara, in unexpected ways.

Gail's journey to unravel the mystery of her parents' lives takes her to Amsterdam, where she meets the war photographer Sipke, who tells his story of Ani and their relationship, which began in Jakarta, a story that will bring Gail face to face with the complications in her own life and lead her closer to the truth.

Vivid, poignant, wise, at once sweeping and intimate, Certainty is a novel about the legacies of loss, about the dislocations of war and the redemptive qualities of love. Thien reveals herself as a novelist of rare and potent talent.

Review:

"Thien's debut novel draws its meager impetus from the tale of Matthew and Ani, two 10-year-olds in the village of Sandakan in Japanese-occupied Borneo during WWII, whose lyrical idylls buffer them from the horrors of war. Romance blossoms when they reunite eight years later, in 1953, but their past—Matthew's dead father collaborated with the Japanese — splits them up, sending the secretly pregnant Ani off to Jakarta and Matthew to Vancouver and a marriage (to Clara). Matthew and Ani's saga intertwines with the latter-day story of Matthew and Clara's daughter, Gail, a radio documentary maker, whose cozy but bland relationship is buffeted by an affair and who decides to find out about her father's mysterious past with Ani. Thien (Simple Recipes) uses this narrative as a peg for much elegiac meditation interspersed with muzzy reflections on fractals, code breaking and snowflake formation — her metaphor for the minute contingencies that shape human motivation. Her prose is poised but wan, and the patchwork story, despite jolts of tragic history, doesn't elicit much interest in her characters or their roads not taken." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Thien's debut novel draws its meager impetus from the tale of Matthew and Ani, two 10-year-olds in the village of Sandakan in Japanese-occupied Borneo during WWII, whose lyrical idylls buffer them from the horrors of war. Romance blossoms when they reunite eight years later, in 1953, but their past — Matthew's dead father collaborated with the Japanese — splits them up, sending the secretly pregnant Ani off to Jakarta and Matthew to Vancouver and a marriage (to Clara). Matthew and Ani's saga intertwines with the latter-day story of Matthew and Clara's daughter, Gail, a radio documentary maker, whose cozy but bland relationship is buffeted by an affair and who decides to find out about her father's mysterious past with Ani. Thien (Simple Recipes) uses this narrative as a peg for much elegiac meditation interspersed with muzzy reflections on fractals, code breaking and snowflake formation — her metaphor for the minute contingencies that shape human motivation. Her prose is poised but wan, and the patchwork story, despite jolts of tragic history, doesn't elicit much interest in her characters or their roads not taken." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Thien's work avoids clichéd descriptions of sexual fantasies and instead focuses on the emotional and spiritual makeup of its characters." Library Jounral

Review:

"There is a light, translucent quality to Thien's prose that casts a certain dreamlike quality on the tale, and yet the magnetic plot will keep the reader's interest through the end." Booklist

Synopsis:

Madeleine Thien's stunning debut novel hauntingly retells a crucial moment in history, through two unforgettable love stories. Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries, is haunted by the mystery of her father's Asian past. As a child, Gail's father, Matthew Lim, lived in a Malaysian village occupied by the Japanese. He and his beloved Ani wandered the jungle fringe under the terrifying shadow of war. The war shattered their families, splitting the two apart until a brief reunion years later. Matthew's profound connection to Ani and the life-changing secrets they shared cast a shadow that, later still, Matthew's wife, Clara, desperately sought to understand. Gail's journey to unravel the mystery of her parents' lives takes her to Amsterdam, where she unearths more about this mysterious other woman. But as Gail approaches the truth, Ani's story will bring Gail face-to-face, with the untold mysteries of her own life. Vivid, poignant, and written in understated yet powerful prose, CERTAINTY is a novel about the legacies of loss, the dislocations of war, and the timeless redemption afforded by love.

About the Author

Madeleine Thien's first book of fiction, Simple Recipes, won four awards in Canada, was a finalist for a regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book, and was named a notable book by the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Originally from Vancouver, Thien recently moved to Quebec City.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780316834995
Author:
Thien, Madeleine
Publisher:
Little Brown and Company
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Mothers and daughters
Subject:
Fathers and daughters
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
World War II; War-torn lovers; Love; Past loves; Lost loves; Love affairs; Secrets; Loss; Search for truth; Redemptive love
Edition Description:
American
Publication Date:
20070331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.875 x 1 in 0.97 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Certainty New Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316834995 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Thien's debut novel draws its meager impetus from the tale of Matthew and Ani, two 10-year-olds in the village of Sandakan in Japanese-occupied Borneo during WWII, whose lyrical idylls buffer them from the horrors of war. Romance blossoms when they reunite eight years later, in 1953, but their past—Matthew's dead father collaborated with the Japanese — splits them up, sending the secretly pregnant Ani off to Jakarta and Matthew to Vancouver and a marriage (to Clara). Matthew and Ani's saga intertwines with the latter-day story of Matthew and Clara's daughter, Gail, a radio documentary maker, whose cozy but bland relationship is buffeted by an affair and who decides to find out about her father's mysterious past with Ani. Thien (Simple Recipes) uses this narrative as a peg for much elegiac meditation interspersed with muzzy reflections on fractals, code breaking and snowflake formation — her metaphor for the minute contingencies that shape human motivation. Her prose is poised but wan, and the patchwork story, despite jolts of tragic history, doesn't elicit much interest in her characters or their roads not taken." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Thien's debut novel draws its meager impetus from the tale of Matthew and Ani, two 10-year-olds in the village of Sandakan in Japanese-occupied Borneo during WWII, whose lyrical idylls buffer them from the horrors of war. Romance blossoms when they reunite eight years later, in 1953, but their past — Matthew's dead father collaborated with the Japanese — splits them up, sending the secretly pregnant Ani off to Jakarta and Matthew to Vancouver and a marriage (to Clara). Matthew and Ani's saga intertwines with the latter-day story of Matthew and Clara's daughter, Gail, a radio documentary maker, whose cozy but bland relationship is buffeted by an affair and who decides to find out about her father's mysterious past with Ani. Thien (Simple Recipes) uses this narrative as a peg for much elegiac meditation interspersed with muzzy reflections on fractals, code breaking and snowflake formation — her metaphor for the minute contingencies that shape human motivation. Her prose is poised but wan, and the patchwork story, despite jolts of tragic history, doesn't elicit much interest in her characters or their roads not taken." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Thien's work avoids clichéd descriptions of sexual fantasies and instead focuses on the emotional and spiritual makeup of its characters."
"Review" by , "There is a light, translucent quality to Thien's prose that casts a certain dreamlike quality on the tale, and yet the magnetic plot will keep the reader's interest through the end."
"Synopsis" by , Madeleine Thien's stunning debut novel hauntingly retells a crucial moment in history, through two unforgettable love stories. Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries, is haunted by the mystery of her father's Asian past. As a child, Gail's father, Matthew Lim, lived in a Malaysian village occupied by the Japanese. He and his beloved Ani wandered the jungle fringe under the terrifying shadow of war. The war shattered their families, splitting the two apart until a brief reunion years later. Matthew's profound connection to Ani and the life-changing secrets they shared cast a shadow that, later still, Matthew's wife, Clara, desperately sought to understand. Gail's journey to unravel the mystery of her parents' lives takes her to Amsterdam, where she unearths more about this mysterious other woman. But as Gail approaches the truth, Ani's story will bring Gail face-to-face, with the untold mysteries of her own life. Vivid, poignant, and written in understated yet powerful prose, CERTAINTY is a novel about the legacies of loss, the dislocations of war, and the timeless redemption afforded by love.
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