Beyond Illusions

“Beyond Illusions” by Duong Thu Huong (Vietnam)

Synopsis and Review

“Beyond Illusions”: where life twists and turns to reveal fresh new blossoms

Linh, a beautiful young woman, married her professor because she so admired his idealism. When he sells out everything he believes in so as to support her and their daughter, her love goes. The book follows Linh and Nguyen through Hanoi society after their breakup as they grapple with their consciences and ideals. Huong traces with grace and intelligence how her young heroine moves ‘beyond illusions’ about politics and love to an understanding of how she can control her own destiny.

“Beyond Illusions”, Huong’s first novel, sold out all 60,000 copies in less than two weeks in Vietnam when it was first published in 1987. However, in 1988, her second novel “Paradise of the Blind” was banned and withdrawn from circulation, after selling more than 100,000 copies, for its criticism of the disastrous 1953-1956 land reforms. Her first novel was subsequently banned and her following three books – “Novel Without A Name” (1995), “Memories of a Pure Spring” (2002) and “No Man’s Land” (2005) – have not been published in Vietnam.

Members of the Book Club enjoyed the novel and felt that it gave a clear picture of life in a totalitarian society. They liked the descriptions of Hanoi life – the places, the food, the weather, the bicycles – which they felt added a lyrical dimension that contrasted with the oppressiveness of the society. Readers enjoyed the fascinating array of characters, though there were mixed feelings about the two main characters, Linh and Nguyen. Some found Linh too naïve to be convincing; others felt sympathy for Nguyen. Most members preferred the political theme of the novel to the love story, which they found simplistic. The book averaged 7.8 out of 10.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list 

Season 5 – “Censorship in the 21st Century” (Feb – Jun 2007)

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (U.S.) *
“The Successor” by Ismail Kadare (Albania)
“Beyond Illusions” by Duong Thu Huong (Vietnam)
“From a Crooked Rib” by Nuruddin Farah (Somalia)
“The Zahir” by Paulo Coelho (Brazil)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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