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Paperback Memories of a Pure Spring Book

ISBN: 0140298436

ISBN13: 9780140298437

Memories of a Pure Spring

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Book Overview

Memories of a Pure Spring is a mesmerizing portrait of modern Vietnam and its people who struggle to survive under the complexities of a post-war regime. During the Vietnam war, Hung, a well-known composer, becomes enchanted by the voice and beauty of a young peasant girl named Suong. He invites her to join his troupe; she becomes his wife and his star performer. But after the war, Hung loses his job, setting off a series of events that drive...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Tragedy, desperation and sin without redemption

Duong Thu Huong's "Memories of a Pure Spring" is not a novel that rests lightly with the reader. Instead, it insinuates itself into your being and sticks uncomfortably in your conscience. It's set in Northern Vietnam, in the aftermath of the "American War," but despite its exotic locale, it grips the heart with a sense of sorrow and exasperation almost too familiar, too painful. This, you know immediately, is not just the story of particular people in a place so far from home and so exotic you can hardly imagine it. Instead, you find yourself immersed in the author's dream, embedded in the life of a family whose center is wobbling inexorably off course, whose love - once thought so pure -- is corroding and dissolving in caustic tears of disappointment, self-pity, alienation and infidelity. Duong's tale begins in the heady days following the Communist victory in Vietnam. The American War is over and an entertainment troupe, led by composer and director Hung, has returned home after years of danger and death alongside the Communist fighting forces. Hung, a man of considerable talent whose work is well known, fully expects to continue his career in peacetime. Instead, in a purely vindictive act to avenge an insult done years before, he's peremptorily dismissed by the Party boss. His appeals prove fruitless, and he finds himself cut off from the work he loves and from the troupe he formed and trained. As Hung spirals downward in dejection and despair, his young, beautiful wife, Suong, a singer and member of his troupe, whom he discovered in the countryside and trained, finds her career arching upward. Hung, who had been her hero, her lover, her husband, her teacher and her comrade, diminishes as his problems mount, as dejection and depression seal him in a cell of self-pity. Suong keeps the family intact, but cannot save Hung, whose depression leads to drink and to the collection of "friends" who parasitically exploit him and further alienate him from Suong. Hung's problems mount, and, because of a poisonous trick of fate, he is sent to prison. Through the efforts of his wife and his old friends in the troupe, Hung survives prison and is eventually released, but his rehabilitation comes too late. His sins are never redeemed. The "Pure Spring" of ideological commitment, of love, of family and real friends is only a dim memory, painful when recalled, overcome by the open sewer of his later life. The author, Duong, had first-hand experience as a member of an entertainment troupe during the war. She suffered all the privations, pain and trials, and watched most of her comrades die. Her dark vision of the Communist apparatus, of the pettiness and vileness of its bureaucrats and party hacks, of the pervasive corruption and the contemptuous treatment of real heroes by unblooded apparatchiks, is unrelenting. Hung is a tragic figure not hounded by the fates, but by the brutal mediocrities in the Party. The Pure Spring of memory was a promise of peace, o

A wonderful story of love, war, peace, and sadness.

The story takes place shorty before the Vietnam war. Suong, a gifted singer follows her dream to become the "nightingale with the crystal voice". Her story is one plagued with hardships that never seem to go away. Her husband Hung is the leader of Vietnams premier troupe. Together they work to entertain Vietnam during the war. The storyline is delivered in a Quentin Tarantino style format. Chapters being and end on key parts of the past, present and future. An entertaining epic with the soul of Vietnam at heart.

A Wonderful but Tragic Story

This story combines ill fortune and personal tragedy that bring a noble soul to sorrow or ruin. In modern literature, tragedy like this is rare. The hero must live and prosper because Hollywood heroes always do. Not tragedy, but romance always reigns. Memories of A Pure Spring is a tragedy in the classical sense. Huong will take you through many tragedies in this story, but the way that they are told makes you want to keep reading.Huong takes us on an emotionally intense journey, both in a political sense and a personal sense. The political sense appears throughout the entire story as it takes place during and after the Vietnam War. Suong, a young singer, marries Hung, a theater director older than she. Hung is removed as leader of the artistic troupe in a demonstration of the pettiness of arbitrary political power. Then we are brought to the political mess in the heart of the re-education camp. As you read, you begin to feel pity for the characters, but it is not the type of story that depresses you because you find yourself wondering what will happen next. Suong's attempt at suicide, Hung's addiction to alcohol and drugs, and Hung's constant struggle for artistic success all make the story more interesting to read. Sure the story has a few good things that happen, and although they create some happy moments, the emotions that the characters go through and the emotions you as the reader feel, are all inspired more by the tragedy that the characters are experiencing. This book is written beautifully with lots of imagery and description. As you read, Huong's words constantly make you see or feel something, for example the sea: "It had no country, no fatherland, no nationality, that the sea was free...that belonged to no one else, that answered to no one, that was no one's slave"(99). Hung, the director, is inspired by the sea, and this description of the sea is now how Hung must write his music: "in a different light, in the howl of the sea, of freedom." Huong could have chosen to simply explain how Hung was now free from writing for the troupe. Instead she uses the beautiful metaphor to explain it. She uses metaphors and similes like this throughout the entire story. For example, she uses a neat simile to describe happiness. "It was a small, modest happiness, like a drop of honey that you spread on the tongue of a newborn babe." We are not just told that someone is happy, we are also told the type of happiness and to what extent. These descriptive words and metaphors throughout the entire book make it much more fascinating to read. The tragic events that are occurring are explained with such beauty that they create images and feelings within you that keep you wanting to continue to read. The only weakness that I find about the story is that it has shifting time periods. Throughout the entire story we shift from past to present quite often. The shifts do not take place just at the beginning of chapters, but everywhere.

Amazing flap copy!

Gripping and intriguing. Never would have thought to pick it up were it not for the amazing flap copy. Well crafted and rich, it captured my interest right away. Kudos to the editor who wrote that!

A gripping drama on human rights

Though the War with the Americans engulfs the country, music composer Hung and his beloved wife singer Suong are happy. They enjoy working together as they entertain the troops with Suong singing Hung's compositions. When the war ends, Hung's friends drop him when he complains about the failure of the redistribution of the wealth among the people. By accident, Hung ends up with boat people fleeing Viet Nam. However, the police catch the dissidents and send them to a re-education camp. Upon "graduating", Hung finds he remains a no man, turning to alcohol to survive and driving his cherished wife further away from him. MEMORIES OF A PURE SPRING is a potent indictment of the misuse of power by the Communists when they united Viet Nam. The story line creates as powerful a human rights defender as one will see in a novel. The prime characters are intriguing and enlightening, but their soliloquies slow down the plot. Though the tale may lose some of its lyrical beauty in the translation, Duong Thu Huong shows why she is considered the Vietnamese voice of conscience.Harriet Klausner
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