The Boat

Nam Le

The Boat
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The Boat

Nam Le

The Boat takes us from a tourist in Tehran to a teenage hit man in Colombia; from an aging New York artist to a boy coming of age in a small Victorian fishing town; from the city of Hiroshima just before the bomb is dropped to the haunting waste of the South China Sea in the wake of another war. Each story uncovers a raw human truth. Each story is as absorbing and fully realised as a novel. Together, they make up a collection of astonishing diversity and achievement.

Review

There is something audacious about an author who, in their first collection of stories, moves between six continents, yet Vietnamese-Australian writer Nam Le navigates the globe confidently and convincingly.

In Le’s first story, ‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice’, a writer called Nam – like the author – attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: “‘It’s hot,’ a writing instructor told me at a bar. Ethnic literature’s hot. And,’” he adds, almost as an afterthought or an attempt at political correctness. “‘Important too.’” This story may begin somewhere close to the truth, but I doubt Le would offer himself up so easily. That story is surely a meta-fiction, as much about the telling of the story as it is about the story.

The remaining stories – vividly located in Tehran, New York, Hiroshima, Colombia, Australia and the South China Sea – are all richly detailed, compelling narratives. A teenage boy considers his future as an assassin. A dying NY artist comes tantalisingly close to meeting his daughter for the first time in 17 years, only to be rejected at the last minute. An American woman travels to Iran in the wake of a failed relationship, to meet an old friend. Boat people drift between continents.

As a collection of stories Nam Le’s The Boat is certainly impressive; for a debut collection, it is exceptional.


**Patrick Cullen is a freelance reviewer.*

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