"But perhaps the politics of a time determine the disposition of a man; perhaps a revolutionary is only a revolutionary in revolutionary times."The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb takes place in contemporary Vietnam at a time when the country is undergoing huge changes. Tu is a young tour guide, but he can't help thinking that what people are interested in seeing is not the real Vietnam at all. He meets Maggie, Vietnamese by birth but having been raised mostly in America, who has come to learn what she can of her mysterious father and his disappearance. Connecting them is Old Man Hung, a man who has been cooking pho for decades and now lives in a shantytown next door to the woman he has loved but not spoken to in decade and whose restaurant once housed a generation of artist revolutionaries including Tu's grandfather.
The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a story told quietly but effectively, with smooth language which flows and fits the reserved nature of the characters extremely well. Each character shows a different perspective into contemporary Vietnam, but my favourite was definitely Old Man Hung with his refusal to give up his integrity even when it could benefit him. He is wise and kind, and through him Gibb shows the reader how family can mean more than blood. The novel also provides insight into the complex differences between cultures, specifically Vietnamese and American, and how even though Maggie was born in Vietnam she is seen as an outsider for her accent and modern-thinking.
It took me awhile to get into The Beauty of Humanity Movement but once I did it completely captured my heart. It's not that the book picks up pace, in fact the whole thing is told quite slowly, but rather that Gibb's storytelling is steady and consistent and after awhile I became completely drawn in and involved in the novel so that the details and background at the beginning became reward for a rich and deep story. I also fully recommend reading the book on a full stomach, much of the story centres around food and Old Man Hung's pho and Gibb's description of the food is incredibly realistic and tempting. I'm always excited to find another Canadian author I enjoy and although this is the first novel I've read by Gibb, but it has encouraged me to pick up another book by her, probably Sweetness in the Belly, at some time in the future. Overall, The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a steady and emotional story with incredible attention to detail and elegant, smooth writing with which Gibb lets the reader into a complex and unfamiliar world.
Release Date: April 6th, 2010
Buy the Book
This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.