Being a Uni Student, Music, and Family Secrets: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien Book Review

I haven’t posted in 9 months in this blog, meaning that there are 9 months worth of books that I haven’t reviewed or posted in this blog. Therefore, here is an excellent book I read quite some time ago that I am eager to share with you. It won a lot of literary prizes and I think it really deserves all the longlists and wins.

Love, music, history, finding yourself, family, books, university. I have always loved books with themes revolving around immigrants or minority descendants living in Europe: The Namesake , White Teeth , and The Kite Runner are some of my favourites. This is a slightly more unique one, because it’s set in Canada and China, two countries whose history I am very unfamiliar with.


Do Not Say We Have Nothing not only has a beautiful and intriguing title but also and interesting premise. It starts are the narrator’s house when she is a young girl, as she meets a family friend’s daughter who is moving from China to Canada where she lives. From there she discovers the intertwining secrets between their two families and the stories behind their parents.

We told each other secretly in the quiet midnight world
That we wished to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree
Earth endures, heaven endures, even though both shall end.

The characters in this book are wonderful. My favourite is probably the narrator, Marie, but I also love the older generation characters, because they take up most of the part of the book. I enjoy their personalities, and how they deal with different phases of their life. I also love how they incorporated music into the history of their family, how the family members are very musical and really love and enjoy music deeply.

Title: Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Author: Madeleine Thien
Publisher: Granta Books
Date Published: July 2016
Num of Pages: 473
Date Read: 31st December, 2016
Goodreads Link
Book Depository Link

What I really really love about this book is its writing style. It’s slow and atmospheric but also explains a lot about the current situation, and at the same time can make the readers fall in love with the location and the characters.

For me the plot was also intriguing. I was never bored. True, sometimes I’d lose track of what the scene was about or forget some of the names, but most of the time the book is very engaging and I just can’t help but keep reading it to find out more. It’s definitely a different kind of page-turner from an action young adult, but for me this slow-build, intriguing stories are way more enjoyable and I love reading these type of books.

He’d been thinking about the quality of sunshine, that is, how daylight wipes away the stars and the planets, making them invisible to human eyes. if one needed the darkness in order to see the heavens, might daylight be a form of blindness? Could it be that sound was also be a form of deafness? If so, what was silence?

This book made me really think about university life, politics, history, family, love (familial love, forbidden love, unspoken love), and identity when living in a foreign country. It’s beautiful, lyrical and touching and I loved every page of it. In addition, you can really get an insight to the history of China related to the Tiananmen Square protests in the 1900s. I really enjoyed this novel and I recommend it if you enjoy slow, long, and character-driven historical fiction.

4 stars

Have you read Do Not Say We Have Nothing? What are your thoughts on this novel, and how much do you like historical fiction? Share us your thoughts on the comments down below!


 bookdepository goodreads



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