Friday, August 17, 2018

The Zenith by Duong Thu Huong

After enjoying the first two Anne of Green Gables books, I decided to try something harder - one of the books that I’ve been thinking of reading for the SEA Reading Challenge. And now that I’ve finished it, I can confidently say that if not for this challenged, I would not have picked up this book or finished it.

The Zenith is a confusing story. As far as I can make out, there are two plot lines. One follows the aging president of Vietnam as he slowly dies in isolation, supposedly loved and respected but really under house arrest, and his relationship with one of his subordinates (who has his own relationship issues). The other follows a family in the Woodcutter’s Hamlet, as the father remarries and brings strife (and lots of gossip to the village).

As it turns out, the patriarch of the family in the woodcutter’s hamlet is the guy who died in the opening of the book. I’m sure that they referenced it somewhere at the start, but I didn’t make the connection until much later.

Looking back, I guess there was some action in the story, but it just felt so long. Everyone seemed inclined to make a speech about politics or sex or sex and politics/marital relationships which dragged the story out. I think that if all the speeches were cut out, the book would be half it’s length and at least twice as interesting.

Although I’m not sure if that would help because the story about the president bored me. The characters were unsympathetic and not very interesting, and it felt like the message of “all ideals will be corrupted by power and politics” was hammered into every speech. In fact, the times where I considered giving up on this book happened mostly during the section about the president and his party officials.

I suppose that if this book was only about the family in the Woodcutter’s Hamlet and without speeches, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. There is, after all, some romance and lots of family drama inside. But as it is, this book felt like a thinly veiled political essay and that isn’t really what I wanted to read


  1. On the outset it sounds interesting, but it sounds like the author went in a direction that wasn't particularly appealing. I don't know that I would want to read this one from what you've said.

    1. I think it really depends on what you want to get from a book - this is more political than anything.


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